Social Media > Disco

                In a New York Times article written last June called Internet Geeks and Freaks, author Virginia Heffernan argues that the reason minorities revel in social media’s culture is the same reason these groups also reveled in the disco movement of the 1970’s. She contends that the reason that this culture composed of women, homosexuals, and nonwhites embrace the new age of social media so enthusiastically is because it is a chance to take a stand against the establishment. A chance to look at the conservative, rich, white males of society and the popular norms they have established and rebel. She predicts a time in the near future where these conservative white males of society will fight back just as they did in the 1970s with anti-disco riots intended to destroy disco and return music to an age of rock and roll. Heffernan implies that cyber riots similar in nature will arise soon and look to return the web to its former days.

                Heffernan is dead-on with her point that just as disco gave these minorities a chance to express themselves to all of America, so does social media give these same groups an opportunity for constant self-expression. You no longer have to be well-educated and well-spoken for the world to hear you; instead all you have to do is be different to get your 15 minutes of fame. This is best illustrated in Twitter and YouTube, Heffernan uses the example of Antoine Dodson who became an internet sensation when his quote on rape, “Hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband, because they’re raping everybody out here” that he said on a news station in Huntsville, Alabama and was made into a YouTube remix. One sentence and the 15 minutes of fame that came along with it was literally all it took to bring this man out of the projects and into a safe home.

                The problem with Heffernan’s argument is not her point about the ability of the underdog’s of society to express themselves through social media, but instead her prediction that the white, power elite of America will soon begin to riot. She has underestimated the power of social media. Yes, in a sense social media is like disco, but the bottom line is SOCIAL MEDIA > DISCO. It is not just a small categorized subculture of society but a reinvention of society as a whole. White, power elite America cannot even ignore social media let alone rebel against it, instead they have tried to embrace it. Politicians now have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.  The people of power have realized that unlike disco, social media is not going away, instead it is evolving and they can either embrace it or get left behind in its dust. Social media is not something that in 2040 will be looked back on and thought of as a “crazy and freaky” part of the 2000s and 2010s. Instead, people who experience an exponentially evolved version of social media will look back and see the seed of social media that began to grow during this generation. A seed that will not die, like disco did. SOCIAL MEDIA > DISCO.


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4 responses to “Social Media > Disco

  1. Judy Le


    Your post brings up some really intriguing questions about the nature of social media and reform. From your synopsis of Heffernan’s argument, my first instinct is to push back against the idea that the upper echelon would ‘rebel’ against platforms that, in some ways, ‘liberated’ marginalized groups. It seems like it would be more accurate to assume that these power groups would find a way to monopolize and absorb social media in order to regain control, which is more to your point (which I definitely agree with).

    An interesting article to look at would be Dennis Baron’s Reforming Egypt in 140 Characters (it’s in our book). I’m glad you brought up Twitter, because it seems like when Twitter initially arrived, everyone criticized it for being ‘pointless’ until people started to understand what kind of power it contains (some would say revolutionary power?).

    • Jared Ebert

      Ms. Le,
      The article you referred to in our text brings up a few interesting points. Baron seems to credit Twitter and other social networking for the ousting of President Mubarak in Egypt. It is interesting to see how a tool that Baron describes as starting out with telling people what you had for breakfast evolves to shake the establishment of a government. This power is truly revolutionary but I agree with Baron that while revolutionary it is still merely a tool. Tienanmen Square occurred with out Twitter and someday another Egypt-type event will occur most likely without the help of Twitter. The interesting part is not that though, the interesting part is how quickly social media is to adapt to our culture and shape communication from talking with friends to removing a political tyrant.

      • Judy Le

        I really love the idea that, though protests/revolutions would still occur without twitter, the process could be accelerated with a little nontraditional media help. Social media changes the way we communicate and see the world…in some ways. This morning on my drive to work, I heard a radio broadcast about the protests in Russia and how it’s documented on youtube. So, perhaps the revolution in Egypt would’ve occurred anyways, but would it have inspired such incredible action in other countries (in this way), if it weren’t so readily available and accessible?

        I think this would prove to be an AMAZING final paper for you (or anyone else who may be interested)… media as a revolutionary tool. Ding.

  2. It’s an interesting way to look at how Social Media and something like Disco are almost the same “concept” even though they are generations apart.
    I agree with you when you say “SOCIAL MEDIA > DISCO”. You bring up the point of politics realizing that social media is not going to go away. Yes, of course this is true, and I agree with you, however when it comes to politicians “embracing” social media and it will never die, there can be another side to this.
    Though social media will most likely grow in the continuing future, bills such as SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA and trying to make their way into the government to try and stop the internet and which could discontinue social media all together. Though all the world is trying to embrace this social media, what’s to say people are not trying to make it die out like Disco?
    With the sudden outbreak of people trying to stop the internet/social media, could there be a chance in the future that we will have a completely different form of social media in the future, if we have one at all?

    My thoughts are, though I sincerely hope not at the chances of it are slim, I would not be surprised if it happened.

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