Social Media: Social Theory Mechanisms

One thing that the COVID-19 crisis has done is brought social media to the forefront of our thinking and our social interactions. What was once a social practice has now become a social necessity. We zoom to work, we zoom to class, we zoom to weddings. We are online always. What does this mean for the self? What does this mean for meaning-making in social contexts?

One of the interesting things about social theory is how different theories and theorists can look at the same social phenomena and come up with different analyses and explanations.


Task Instructions


For this paper, I want you to explore how Goffman and Bourdieu might look at social media as a mechanism of the self. Goffman argues that all social interactions are performances for a stage. Two things guide our performance: remaining in good face and avoiding stigma.

What would Goffman say about social media?

Is it a new total institution?

What are the props, scripts, costumes, prestige symbols, etc. of this stage.

Has our dramaturgy changed due to zoom?

How has our impression management changed?

Are ‘likes’ a form of capital? If so, which kind?

Use the cultural capital and habitus ideas from Bourdieu in your response.

How does social media reflect our habitus and capitals?

Does social media allow for a display of taste and distinction? How?

How does social media reflect the mechanisms of meaning-making and value action?

To once again quote Charles Lemert: “One of the reasons social theorists are willing to tolerate confusion is that their calling is to stay put in the dirty work of daily life while trying to figure out social things. (Lemert, 2007.)


Social Therapy


The use value of social theory is to make sense of social phenomena and to bring a critical lens to the daily practices of social life. Often, that requires pulling together different ideas and theories from more than one theorist.

Here’s your chance to engage in that practice. Play around and see what you come up with. Most importantly, have fun. Papers should be between 4 and 6 pages in length. Your essay should be between 4 and 6 pages in length. Your papers should be well cited and refer to at least 4 concepts. Summarize and explain the relevant theoretical concepts and their meaning as they relate to your argument and/or analysis.

I will be looking for a clear argument, familiarity with relevant material, and a robust analysis (application of concept to a specific example; employing sociological concepts and theories to answer ‘why’?)

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