Yuri Chang | I hate you, but I love you
Hegemony, the nation and social media
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 08:10
If Antonio Gramsci were to have an online profile, it would say something like the following: Birthday: January 22, 1891. Occupation: writer, political theorist, sociologist, oh and a founding member and one-time leader of the Communist Party of Italy. Status: imprisoned by Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime and died shortly after in 1937.
So what does one of the most important Marxist thinkers of the 20th century have to do with social media? As my sociology class was getting deep into discussion about his concepts of hegemony and imagined political spaces, I realized that the same theories could easily be applied to social media.
To put a semester of Intro to IR into one sentence, under some definitions the nation-state is not a physical territory but is created through hegemony, through which beliefs and values are imposed upon a community of people that then become accepted and integrated. Benedict Anderson, author of “Imagined Communities,” expands upon Gramsci’s idea that “imagined space becomes second nature, a structure of feeling, embodied in material practice and lived experience
the nation is rendered real through a vast iconic structuring of public social space.” Just as the nation-state is articulated through everyday routine, rituals and policies, social media has successfully incorporated itself into many aspects of our lives without us even realizing it.
From the moment we wake up in the morning to when we finally close our books and go to sleep, we are constantly connected to one another through different social media platforms. I’m sure I’m not alone when I admit that before I get out of bed in the morning, the first thing I do is check my phone for updates on my Facebook and Twitter newsfeed. When I’m doing homework and need a break from reading, I’ll go on Tumblr to look at what the people I follow have posted. There are people who, without fail, will report on their FourSquare account where they have been, as if not announcing it online is the equivalent of never having been there at all. Periodically checking in on an online network throughout the day has become just as second nature as eating three meals a day.
Our online world has crossed over into our offline world and has even created a new social realm in which we have to learn how to maneuver. For example, am I being a bad friend if I don’t comment on your latest Facebook album of Homecoming? Does not following you back on Twitter have the same implications as not waving to you as we pass each other in Dewick?
These days it seems like nearly every major company comes equipped with its own blog, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr as less formal and more personal ways of connecting with their consumers. On a more local level, Tufts University has a countless number of things to follow and like on the Internet. Even the Somerville Police Department has its own Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channel. Social media also intersects with academic life; the Hans Rosling Statistics video that I had to watch for my Quantitative Research class has more than five million views and 20,000 likes on YouTube.
Being online or offline is no longer limited to physically sitting yourself down in front of a computer and logging in. Social media has us always on and interacting with each other to such an extent that is almost subconscious. In the same way that we accept the nation as natural, social media has constructed its way to being an integral and inevitable part of our lives.
Yuri Chang is a senior majoring in international relations. She can be reached at Yuri.Chang@tufts.edu.