How the World Changed Social Media
Daniel Miller
Politics & Social Sciences
How the World Changed Social Media

How the World Changed Social Media is the first book in Why We Post, a book series that investigates the findings of anthropologists who each spent 15 months living in communities across the world. This book offers a comparative analysis summarising the results of the research and explores the impact of social media on politics and gender, education and commerce. What is the result of the increased emphasis on visual communication? Are we becoming more individual or more social? Why is public social media so conservative? Why does equality online fail to shift inequality offline? How did memes become the moral police of the internet?

Supported by an introduction to the project’s academic framework and theoretical terms that help to account for the findings, the book argues that the only way to appreciate and understand something as intimate and ubiquitous as social media is to be immersed in the lives of the people who post. Only then can we discover how people all around the world have already transformed social media in such unexpected ways and assess the consequences.

How the World Changed Social Media
Series page
UCL  Press
Introduction to the series Why We Post
Summary of contents
List of figures
List of tables
List of contributors
1 What is social media?1
2 Academic studies of social media
Definitions of social media
History and culture
Defined studies of social media31
From communication studies to social studies
The contribution of anthropology
3 Our method and approach
Succeeding in failing
Is ethnography a method or an end?
What we did
Comparative and collaborative work
Ethical issues
4 Our survey results
Theme 1: social relationships
Theme 2: activities on social media
Theme 3: privacy
Theme 4: commerce
Theme 5: attitudes towards social media
Background to the study
5 Education and young people
Prior literature and research
From ‘formal’ to ‘informal’ learning: mitigating for perceived failings in education
Relationships between students: intimacy, drama and bullying
Teacher–​student relationships: between surveillance and engagement
Parent–​school relationships: mediating study
6 Work and Commerce
The relation between work and non-​work
Finding and getting work
The significance of the social media companies
Entrepreneurship and networking
Wider values
7 Online and offline relationships
‘Authenticity’ and ‘mediation’: the big concerns
‘Frame’ and ‘group’: approaches to understand sociality
From intimacy to anonymity: scalable sociality16
Online identity: extended and new dimensions of daily life
8 Gender
Continuities: gendered self-​presentations
Non-heteronormative sexualities
9 Inequality
What is inequality?
Approaches to social media and inequality: the positive, the negative and the grounded8
The diversity of difference
Making visible social mobility
The limits to social media’s impact on social mobility
10 Politics
The concern with social relations makes social media a conservative place
State surveillance and national politics
Local issues in political participation
11 Visual images
Increasingly accessible and moral communication
Scalable sociality
12 Individualism
Individualism and networks
What difference does social media make?
Conformity and collectivity: ‘because everybody else does it’
Privacy and sociability
Finding a balance: using social media to adjust relationships
13 Does social media make people happier?
Studies on social media and happiness
Capacity and aspiration
Enduring social values
Temporary pleasure
Social media and added stress
Discussion: does social media make people look happier?
14 The future
Four trends
Both – simultaneously
Imagining the future
Appendix –​ The nine ethnographies
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