Throughout history, sociological thinkers have tried to answer two questions to explain the social world in micro and macro terms. The first question is what creates order as well as disorder in society? The second question is what motivates society to action towards their social world? With this in mind, today a new phenomenon has arisen for sociologist to make sense of, instead analyzing the mechanisms that create order and disorder in the physical world, sociologist’ now have the task to answer these same two questions for the virtual world, for example, Facebook. For some sociologist the answer to these two questions pertaining to Facebook is cohesion, while for others, it is conflict that makes. On the other hand, sociologist, such as, Herbert Blumer, George Mead, and Ervin Goffman, the answer to these two questions is Symbolic Interactionism. By first explaining the three premises of Symbolic Interationism by Herbert Blumer, and then applying Mead’s theory of developing Self”, and coupled with Goffman’s “Dramaturgy” theory, I will argue why Symbolic Interactionism is a viable way to explain why Facebook exist as a social reality.
Symbolic Interactionism is a school of thought with three main premises used by Herbert Blumer to explain human behavior, and how society is created out of these behaviors.
The first premise is human beings act towards things on the basis of the meanings that things hold to them (Delaney 2014:258). For example, Facebook was created to connect and share with friends, and it’s user’s, act towards this meaning by creating profiles and sharing their lives.
The second premise is that the meanings, giving to things arise out of the social interactions that one has with others (Delaney 2014:258). For example, Facebook was an idea in Mark Zuckerberg’s head and to everyone else Facebook had no meaning. It was not until on Febuary 2004, when Zuckerberg launched Facebook, that the rest of society was giving meaning to Facebook, and began to spread it like wildfire through social interactions with others in the virtual and physical world.
The third premise of Symbolic Interactionism is that all meanings are modified through an interpretative process used by people in dealing with the things they encounter (Delaney 2014:258). An example of this premise is the process that Facebook has gone through since its launch date. Facebook was created at first for just educational institutions, but Zuckerberg had to modify what Facebook meant to people by expanding it to anyone with an email address, because of the feedback from his social interactions that he was receiving from Facebook users that wanted everyone to be able to participate in this new phenomenon. Facebook continues to evolve its language in the form of adding options to give gifts, play games through Facebook with friends, show approval to friend’s pictures by marking the pictures with a “like” symbol, and tagging friend’s to pictures, so others can know that person was present in that picture.
To summarize this idea, it is accurate to think of it as a process. Mark Zuckerberg had an idea of a social reality, then he shared it with the rest of the world to give it meaning, and in-turn, the users act accordingly to Zuckerberg’s vision by participating. Zuckerberg and the Facebook users are creating a social reality now by each interacting to do their part. In addition, through interactions between Zuckerberg, and the Facebook users, they are constantly modifying the meanings of Facebook to fit a united purpose.
Another aspect of Symbolic Interactionism found embedded in the language of Facebook is a George Mead’s theory of developing Self through “I” and “Me”. According to Mead (2014), “Human behavior was almost totally a product of interactions with others. The self, which can