Skyping Research

This semester, I have been doing something I’ve never done before.  …  Actually, I have been doing a lot of novel somethings this semester, but as that is the overarching topic of most of this blog, I will be more specific:  I have been Skyping.

I downloaded the video conferencing and messaging app on my laptop/tablet (or as I refer to it, my laptab) earlier this year when I found out I was moving to Indiana to attend Purdue.  It was actually my dad’s idea, so we could keep in touch.  It wasn’t until September that I finally used the app, though — and I didn’t Skype with my family.  I Skyped with my professor from The University of Alabama (yes, the “The” is supposed to be capitalized because apparently some higher-up decided “the University of Alabama” was too generic; it should be The University of Alabama).

But over the summer, I started a research project with my professor, Dr. Seigfried-Spellar (aka Dr. Kate), a project that was not completed by the time I got ready to leave Alabama.  However, we have been able to continue our research together because of Skype.  Each week, on Friday morning, we have a Skype meeting and go over our data, running analyses and figuring out what it tells us.  This is much better than a simple phone call for a couple of reasons: 1) Skype is free, so neither one of us has to worry about using up all our phone minutes during our typically hour-long meetings, and 2) Skype’s video conferencing capability allows for a virtual face-to-face meeting; because I have two laptops, I can angle the one running Skype so that Dr. Kate can see the data on SPSS, which I run on my larger laptop.  This has enabled us to continue our research, which I will be presenting at the ACJS conference in Orlando in March of next year.



Along with these weekly meetings, I have also Skyped with a couple of my friends from home a few times.  I was able to show off my new apartment and mad decorating/crafting skills, and more importantly, I was able to actually see my friends.  A phone conversation is great, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a live-streaming video must be worth a million.




Strong Ties & Privacy

*Note: This post is brought to you by hot tea and cold meds.  Please excuse the possible (ahem, likely) incoherency.

my bubble

In class on Monday, our professor said something I found very interesting: Exclusively maintaining strong ties negates a need for privacy.

To explain this, I should probably give a little bit of background info for my non-class readers.  For those of you who were already privy to this lecture, feel free to skip the next paragraph.

Quick review:  Strong ties are the relationships you have with friends; weak ties are the relationships you have with acquaintances.  Granovetter explains in his Strength of Weak Ties that it is actually the weak ties — the relationships you have with people outside of your group of friends — that build cognition and expand perception.  This is because we typically befriend those who are very similar to ourselves.  Therefore, relying solely on our friends for intellectual stimulation would lead to a narrowed viewpoint and lack of cognitive growth; without new ideas to challenge us, our minds could never develop outside of the small box we construct around it.

As everyone is now on the same page, let me return to my original topic, strong ties and privacy.  If we all lived in our own small world with just our closest group of friends and family, then do we still require privacy?  I wouldn’t mind my best friend seeing me when I’m sick and pitiful in my pajamas and crazy hair day (completely unrelated example, I swear), but I would not necessarily want to share that image with a near-stranger because ew.  This concept brings to mind a discussion I once had with a friend.  As I honestly can’t remember which friend, I’m going to just call her…  Mallory.  I don’t actually know anyone named Mallory, so that will work nicely.  Anyway, Mallory was telling me about how she was getting ready to go out with her husband and best friend one night, and both of them were waiting for her in the living room.  Mallory, in the process of getting dressed, walked out of her bedroom to say something to her friend.  Her husband, however, did not appreciate the fact that Mallory was only half-dressed at the time.  Mallory didn’t understand his irritation.  Both her husband and her female best friend had seen her at various stages of getting dressed — what was the big deal?  Apparently, her husband felt that it was weird for both he and Mallory’s friend to see that much of her at the same time.

I thought the story was quite interesting.  The concept of privacy is almost like a bubble that surrounds a person.  Every so often, someone else is allowed into this bubble.  However, if all the people with whom we are close were allowed into the bubble at the same time, how would the dynamic change?  For one thing, this is sounding dangerously close to a cult-like situation.  For another, though, what are the true implications for sharing private matters with more than one person at a time?  Like in the above example with Mallory.  Sharing what he thought of as a personal matter (aka his wife’s state of undress) with her best friend made Mallory’s husband uncomfortable.  For Mallory’s husband, there were too many people in Mallory’s privacy bubble at the same time.

In the case of social media, any number of people are invited into our own little privacy bubble at any given time, if available privacy settings are in use.  We choose a certain population to be privy to our thoughts, our faults, our actions and travels, and our friendships, along with a multitude of other things.  All of these people are taking up residence in our bubble, and we are sharing our “private” selves with them simultaneously.  Now, consider that our Facebook friends include acquaintances on the outskirts of our lives and not just our closest friends.  But what if our Facebook friends list did include only those with whom we were closest?  Would we care if we exposed ourselves (figuratively) to a group of our closest friends/family?  Would we care if they all saw us at our most vulnerable at the same time?  Would we all become exhibitionists within our own bubbles, flouncing around half-dressed and carrying on conversations with our husbands and best friends simultaneously?  Have I had too much Nyquil?  Likely.