Sunday, March 16, 2014

Clearing Social Media Debts: Do You Need a "Human Bandwidth Manager"?

Overloaded with email? Tired of tweets? Pissed at pinterest? Instaslammed? If you ever feel guilt from neglecting social media participation or fatigue from trying to fit in connecting to all your online "friends," you're in good company. On last week's Portlandia episode (Season 4, Episode 3), Carrie Brownstein declares "Social Bankruptcy" taking the "nuclear option" to erase herself from the Internet and social media against the advice of her "human bandwidth manager." Kick off a discussion about love/hate relationships with social media using this clip.
The premise of posing a financial counselor for social media participation may be particularly poignant for college students, powerfully casting our time spent online as an investment. Possible discussion questions to pose before viewing: What are the techniques used to deliver the humor? What's the premise for each joke? What messages does the sketch deliver about the costs and benefits of retreating from social media use? What values and lifestyles are represented? What would happen to you or your friends if you took similar action to Carrie? How do you balance and value your social media participation and offline activities? Discussion could connect to classic media literacy activities like keeping a media diary/log for a week to assess your own time management and types of engagements, or experimenting with a media retreat to gain perspective on our investments in online culture and relationships.
An avalanche of messages buries Carrie. How would you visually portray your relationship to social media? 
The opening sequence of the Portlandia sketch visually communicates the prominence of social media messages in Carrie's character's life. How would you visualize the role of social media in your life? Production activity extensions might include making short documentaries on your social media commitments, or those of friends and family; or making your own comedy sketches to exaggerate the cost/benefits and parody media management strategies. You might even try creating interview scripts for the "human bandwidth manager" and improv roleplaying to discuss media management strategies.

Using humor to introduce discussions of love/hate relationships with communication technology may help to keep participants open to learning about each others strategies and styles of media management, rather than slipping into a mess of judgmental jockeying and defensiveness--especially with this sketch that gets at familiar feelings, both positive and negative. By showing the costs of extreme immersion and extreme withdrawal, the sketch opens up space discuss strategies of balance for digital media participation.

1 comment:

  1. This sketch is a great opportunity to discuss the authenticity of social media comments: Is it earnest and valid when Carrie types "Happy birthday" while she brushes her teeth? Or when the social media financial counselor describes his comment "templates"? Also, this blog is amazing!