disconnecting with social networking sites


Light, B. (2014). Disconnecting with Social Networking Sites. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

This is a book length study of how we navigate digital media with disconnection. Here I do not mean taking time out from technology, I refer instead to how we engage in disconnection whilst using digital media – by unfriending, back channelling, hiding, pseudonymity and selective platform use for example.  Below is an outline of the book and a chapter listing.  You can find the full introduction here  and buy a copy of the text here.

Part I of this text, in which this chapter is situated, is concerned with laying out how one might think of SNSs and their appropriation. In Chapter 2, I provide insights into how I am more broadly framing my understanding of the appropriation of SNSs and the role that disconnection plays. Within this chapter, I argue that the Internet, and the applications associated with it, are subject to interpretation by various social groups, with varying agendas. As a consequence of the Internet arrangements being subject to a variety of narrations, it is perhaps most helpful to work with this dialectical position. I also advocate for the interpretation of the Internet as just another space of our everyday life rather than another world. This chapter also lays out the social shaping of technology as a way to understand a hybrid view of technological development and appropriation where we have varying possibilities to shape technology, but we are also shaped by it. I also provide an outline of my conceptions of power, as I see this as integral to notions of connection and disconnection. Chapter 3 pays particular attention to the extent and nature of the engagements we have with things beyond the human in our everyday appropriation of SNSs. Here, I discuss contexts of appropriation in terms of geography, time and situated use – “the where”, “the when” and “the with” of use. I also examine the work of applications and apps, the functions they have, the interfaces they present themselves to us through, the devices we engage with them via and the infrastructures upon which they and we engage. The point of this chapter is to clearly demonstrate how non-human mediators are implicated with us in our use of SNSs, and disconnective practice in particular.

In part II, I emphasise disconnection in relation to publics, which is not to say that the matters contained within part III regarding personal disconnection do not bleed into this arena, and vice versa. Of course they can. The division I make here is one of emphasis. Chapter 4 explores how we might participate with SNSs in the mediation of public life where it goes beyond the boundaries of work and home. Here I consider SNSs in terms of how they and we are implicated in the construction of further public spaces and the extent to which these reflect more general interpretations of decent behaviour. I am interested here, in how disconnective practice is implicated. How is disconnective practice played out in our navigation of public spaces with and within SNSs both in terms of what we do and what we are allowed to do? Chapter 5 focuses upon disconnection as it relates to our engagement with work. A greater number of people are now engaging with SNSs and for many these activities are becoming intertwined with their occupation irrespective of whether they are gainfully employed, engaged in voluntary work, unemployed or retired. This chapter addresses how people navigate SNSs through the enrolment of selective connectivity and more specifically disconnective practice. It highlights disconnective practice as holding potential to be a retrospective act, to be engaged in relation to work talk, as linguistic cover and as related to the nature and structure of a person’s role. I also highlight the roles of institutions with respect to disconnection.

Part III emphasises personal levels of disconnection. Chapter 6 concentrates upon how we personalise the use of SNSs by engaging with disconnective practice. This chapter examines how disconnection is present in the navigation of relationships in areas such as gossip, how we deal with boring people and of friend culling, for instance. Disconnective practice is also shown to be integral to identity work where the desire for anonymity and multiple disconnected accounts may play a part. Importantly, this analysis demonstrates how disconnective practice need not be read as resistance, and rather as something positive and necessary that adds value to our engagements with SNSs. This chapter also discusses the role of ethics and judgement in shaping acts of disconnection, drawing upon ideas of editorial ethics and notions of respect for others. It also highlights the sometimesnegotiable nature of disconnection. The affects of agency and structure on the personalisation of use with disconnective practice are considered within this chapter too. This discussion engages with the potentials for disconnection in terms of failures in the affective associations with SNS features, rejections of SNS philosophies, apathy regarding the commercial imperatives of SNSs and the limits of disconnective practice as a mode of commercial resistance. The chapter also reveals that disconnective practice is something that may itself have commercial interest and value. Chapter 7 gives attention to how disconnective practice might figure in peoples’ engagements with SNSs as related to health and wellbeing. It considers issues associated with users accessing health information, sharing health information and receiving health information. Through this analysis, psychological elements of disconnective practice are revealed asSNS Book Final August 2014 related to conceptions of how we conceive of SNS space, the content we share in such spaces, the people we are connected with, or not, and the relevance of the things we share or might receive. This chapter also engages with ideas of the materiality of SNSs in health contexts whether this is through formal education programmes, political acts of posting made by those with health conditions and the affects of SNSs on health. The ethical tensions of engaging with SNSs in relation to health are also discussed and two case studies are enrolled to consider culture as a mediator of disconnection.

Part IV contains the conclusions of this study. In Chapter 8 I bring together the various threads of preceding chapters to elaborate on what a theory of disconnective practice might contain. A theory of disconnective practice, I argue, incorporates attention to geographies of disconnection, disconnectors, disconnection modes, disconnective power and the ethics of disconnection.