A Close Reading For the Social Media Age

FM is here to find (or construct) meaning for the conventions of these destabilizing times.

Gchat, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Wordpress, Myspace, new Myspace. What does it all mean? If the barrage of information and new technology that is the social media age leaves you feeling like a lone byte beaming through the existential emptiness of space, fear not. FM is here to find (or construct) meaning for the conventions of these destabilizing times.


The eye of the Skype camera is the eye of society concentrated into the small, apparently innocuous circle on your computer, as your data becomes party to the government and beyond. A conflation of Big Brother and Big Papa, Skype is the panoptican. It is bourgeois exhibitionism masquerading as connectivity. Every time you shimmy those clothes off for a sexy Skype sesh with your significant someone, you do so under the cold, calculating eye of the dominant discourse: cruel, impersonal, paternalistic, and extremely judgmental of your thighs.

Facebook Profile Picture:

The profile picture represents a futile attempt at essentialization of the self: The user selects a single image, one conglomeration of pixels and bytes, that he hopes can convey Who He Is to that girl he sits next to in math class.Self-image is not projected with sly subtlety but uploaded explicitly and unabashedly. There’s a fundamental honesty at play: “Here is how I want you to see me,” the user seems to say. But that upfrontness denies the individual the right to complexity—to an identity that requires more than what’s “worth a thousand words” to express.The self-aware user, unable to stomach being pigeonholed, eschews caricaturization—she exhibits an eclectic medley of pictures. She attempts to obfuscate, to hide from the medium that demands she choose symbols to manifest her capital “I” Identity.In selecting a file and clicking “upload,” we cry out for recognition from the collective consciousness of cyberspace.

Twitter Retweet:

As retweets proliferate and clog the twitterverse, unoriginal parroting threatens to become the status quo of online communication. The tweeter’s intellectual product becomes no more than the sum of others’ profundities, appropriated and re-appropriated through the unique lens of the individual’s web-addled consciousness. Gone are the days in which writers couched their intellectual plagiarism in literary allusions or quotations analyzed into the body of a new text. Instead, retweeting weaves a global web of intertextuality. Is the time to pronounce the death of originality upon us? Eh, that’d probably get a bunch of re-tweets, too.


While some say the

alienation of online

instant chatting tools is

a negative manifestation of

the existential loneliness of this

contemporary age, reducing

human contact to mere

sound bites, we say

Gchat is the next wave of

poetry. The heavily

enjambed lines and rich

colloquial tone of the

Gchat force us to ask: What is an

author? As our culture of social

media shifts the register from

prose to verse, Gchat

provides a new

model for collective authorship

as two (or more) subjectivities

grapple to articulate

primary experience.