Facebook Refusal: Hipster Trend or Activist Movement? NYU Steinhardt Researcher Explores Media Refusal Phenomenon

 

Laura Portwood-Stacer, visiting assistant professor of media, culture, and communication at NYU Steinhardt, has recently published a study of people who quit Facebook and how the media cover the phenomenon of Facebook refusal.

“People have a variety of reasons for quitting or refusing a platform like Facebook,” said Portwood-Stacer, “Yet many media accounts of the phenomenon portray quitters as hipsters or elitists. Even some of the refusers themselves describe their decision to quit in terms that make it sound like they’re ‘too cool’ for Facebook.”

Portwood-Stacer asserts that many people have ethical and political concerns about media services like Facebook.

“While quitting may seem like an ideal solution, it’s an individual strategy that doesn’t necessarily result in structural changes to the media landscape. Those political and ethical concerns—about privacy, about exploitation, about user agency—go unaddressed,” Portwood-Stacer notes. “The problem is compounded by media coverage that talks about quitting Facebook as a consumer ‘trend’ rather than a form of protest.”

Portwood-Stacer’s study about Facebook abstention and its coverage in media outlets, titled “Media Refusal and Conspicuous Non-Consumption: The Performative and Political Dimensions of Facebook Abstention,” was published in New Media and Society. It features personal interviews with Facebook abstainers, as well as analysis of blogs, newspaper articles, and complaints posted in other social media venues like Twitter. This study is the first phase of a larger research project aimed at understanding people’s discomfort with various forms of media and how this discomfort is expressed through refusal.

 

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