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In a recently published article in New Media & Society, Nicholas John (2022) reports on the decline of the use of “sharing” in the self-presention of large social network sites (SNS) over the last decade:

“there is a clear reduction in the use of the terminology of “sharing” in the self-presentation of SNSs during the decade under study. Where in the mid-2000s SNSs relied heavily on a rhetoric of sharing to promote their services, by 2020 “sharing” appears hardly at all.” (p. 2)

The world’s largest social media service Facebook is a case in point. Facebook changed the description on its landing page from “Share what’s new in your life on your Timeline” (2011) to “Connect with friends and the world around you on Facebook” (2020; on a side note, German Facebook still refers to “teilen” as of 2022).

Proportion of social network sites with “sharing” on their front page, 2011–2020. (Source: John 2022, p. 7)

Interpreting his findings, John states that “sharing” is no longer “the constitutive activity of social media” (p. 6). I would tend to disagree with this rather bold assessment and instead argue that sharing is still constitutive for even the largest and most successful social media sites such as Instagram or TikTok. However, the activity of sharing has become so institutionalized – taken-for-granted, as neo-institutionalists would say – that emphasizing it is not necessary to clarify what is happening on social media anymore. Actually, John himself later refers to related studies that put forward such a reading, claiming that practices such as “sharing” or “remixing” have “faded in to the ‘background noise’ of mainstream culture” (p. 12, with reference to Rosa et al. 2021).

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The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
November 2022
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