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Social Media and the Value of Disconnection

The final speaker in this session at ASMC14 is Ben Light, whose interest is in disconnection in social media spaces. Social media sites are all about connectivity, of course – at least as far as their corporate rhetoric is concerned; disconnection tends to be less closely investigated in current research.

There are different forms of disconnective power, which are differently implemented in social media spaces. The simplest is actual disconnection functionality; the second is by limiting the scope of user decisionmaking; a third is to create the social environment where certain disconnections are enshrined without needing to be articulated. Such disconnective power may be affected by geographic or sociocultural contexts, or by technological frameworks and algorithms.

And then there are ethics of disconnection: personal judgments which govern the practices and modes of our disconnection from others. But there are also strategies which prevent connection from happening in the first place – by not friending people, not linking accounts, not sending "message read" acknowledgments, or engaging in linguistic cover strategies (such as using slang or alternate languages).

Overall, disconnection acts as a socioeconomic lubricant – disconnection or lack of connection adds social capital to one's account.