A Stranger In His Own (Digital) World

This study asks: how do social media sites produce users? Specifically, it looks at user identities and everyday experiences. In a techno-capitalist setting that profits off users and imposes ideologies, how does the user think, feel, act, move, and cope? What happens to the user-laborer, and the self as a result? Guided by De Certeau’s phenomenology on everyday life and alienation theory that draws from Neo-Marxist ideas, I expose how users, including myself, are deeply fragmented in continuous use of Twitter. I uncovered how alienation is felt at an existential level, which is inherent to capitalism. Driven by external forces and pressures, results show that ordinary Twitter users are ridden with contradictions, unable to recognize motivations. First, I connect the app’s schemes to presumption, which showed how users are simultaneously hyper-aware and unaware of their actions while surrendering agency to the site. The user’s relationship to culture reveals that the site is unconducive to connection—urging commodification and competition. Finally, I investigated the user’s concept of self, which exhibited varying degrees of frustration and loneliness, born out of a gap between the genuine and ‘ideal’ self. This study used alienation theory to reveal how Twitter shapes its ideal users to benefit from their activity extensively, which degrades individuals and experiences. Hopefully, this opens the discussion on the race between new media technologies to capture attention and content for profit. I want to uncover the alien motivations in the role of the prosumer, as a path to resistance in a competitive system.

Alienation, Phenomenology, Twitter, Technocapitalism, User Identities and Experiences, Everyday Life

Technologies and Human Usability

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

  • Dave Leland Pahila
    • University of the Philippines - Dillman, Philippines Philippines
    • Media student and researcher, University of the Philippines - Diliman. Writes about new media, media representation, sociology of media, media and advertising, and media technology.