What is being said? And how is it being said? This could be defined as a concept of rhetoric. At least those are some of my initial thoughts when i think of rhetoric conceptually. Opinions on rhetoric vary far and wide. Plato thought the goal of rhetoric was knowledge/truth, Aristotle meanwhile saw persuasion as its objective. I tend to think that both are true. There are endless possibilities with different mediums available to convey rhetoric. Different mediums and stylizations may also be subject to different interpretations. Every person is different in the way that they interpret something. Context is a big factor in getting people to have a competent interpretation of the rhetoric you are trying to convey. Supplying even small forms of context can wildly change the interpretation of the work. In the digital age we’re in it seems context is being diminished. Social media platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter lead to instant reactions whether one is seeking it or not. The seeking of instant reactions and/or gratification can lead to the deliberate exclusion of context. These mediums allow us to convey context if we want, but people often don’t want context when navigating the digital world. We like to consume small bits of information and react, or move one, or use it to serve our own purposes.
Context is also important to conveying the tone of rhetoric. For instance tone’s get misconstrued all the time on social media and especially in text messages. Conveying tones of sarcasm/irony often go awry in text messages.
With only a few friends can I consistently use ironic/sarcastic tones in a text message knowing it won’t be misunderstood. With these friends i have a specific rapport that has been built by spending a lot of time face to face, person to person. Trying to convey tones to friends/acquaintances/strangers who we don’t have a personal rapport on the internet or social media is bound to lead to miscommunications. The digital world has also changed the way we contextualize things. Memes and Gifs are an example of how we have evolved in our sense of rhetoric. As we evolve the world we consumes evolves as well.
As we adapt into communicating better with these modern mediums I feel like we lose a step in our face to face social rhetoric skills. With texts/social media, we have time to plan out and calculate how we’re going to get a reaction or say something or react to something. In person reactions in conversation have to be formed quicker. It’s like we lose some muscle memory of how to react timely to conversation so we will feel a bit rushed and it can lead to awkward and unformed thoughts bleeding into everyday conversation in ways they might not’ve in the past.
One thought on “Contextualization is Evolving in the Social Media Age”
Hey Jacob, I definitely agree with you that context in king. I don’t know if you watch Youtube at all, but the biggest Youtuber on the website, PewDiePie was recently involved in a huge mass media scandal. He is known for making very sarcastic jokes, and sometimes pretty dark jokes, and on one video he decided to make a Nazi/Hitler joke. Not too long after posting the video, the Wall Street Journal starting writing stories that PewDiePie is Neo-Nazi and bigot and hates Jews, even though he implicitly said in multiple videos, even the video in question, that it was only a joke and that he absolutely does not discriminate. WSJ decided to piece together his videos and make cut up videos with news anchors talking over him to paint him out as some bigot, when pretty much everyone knew he wasn’t. It’s a classic case of a mass media outlet willing to do anything, up to and including foregoing context, for a good story. Good post, got me thinking!