Moral panics are a common pattern in all societies and shed light on the moral standard and social order through which it functions. What isn’t often recognized is that reactions and attitudes to these are very much dependent on spatial flows of media content distribution and the driving force of ‘space’ itself. Spatial impacts upon social media are huge in number- consisting of the physical spatial setting, peer groups and various spaces of people, social settings, trends, news and events, spaces of moral idea, attitude, behaviour and opinion, distribution of media and access to technology and resources available/accessible to individuals . These factors drive the way both groups and individuals view and use social media- whether this be achieved through a positive or negative lens.
This week I looked at Instagram as a platform for connecting audience, space and ways of thinking about social media. Instagram as a medium does so in more ways than one- combining spatial settings and location settings applied to each post, use of hashtags relating to the spatial experience, followers that remain as a constant audience and the wider audience (which exists all across the world) that have access to your posts through searching with tags.
Spatial elements like these are what feed the way we use, and the way we experience social media. The tools, groups, places, ideas and audiences we encounter throughout or experiences within social media contribute to our understanding and learning of platforms through these spatial devices.
The material above is a collection of posts from individuals and users that I follow on Instagram, constructed as a means of demonstrating the spatial experiences that I encounter within my own social world.
Moral panics play out in the same way, with experiences in relation to what we hear and view contributing to our learning and the worldviews we then construct. I recently spoke to a mother of two children who deals with conflicting views and moral panics surrounding social media and expressed how these ideas then go on to impact the way she parents and manages her children in relation to social media. She informed me that with all the panic and some of the stories she hears, she feels she has no choice but to check their Instagram profiles each night before bed as a means of making sure they are posting within a ‘safe media environment’. Seeing that I utilize the platform more than any other and would never think to see it in negative light, I thought this sounded crazy- however it occurred to me that people within different spatial environments will experience different encounters with social media that are unlike mine- due to the simple fact that they do exist in a different spatial setting to that of mine.
Often out of our control, our attitudes and ideas surrounding platforms and commodities are shaped by what we see, hear and experience within our spatial environment and how spatial elements are distributed and circulated within these settings.
Hochman, N. 2013, ‘Zooming into an Instagram City: Reading the local through social media’ First Monday, Volume 18, Number 7, Viewed 2 September 2013, <http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4711/3698>