On Social Capital and Staying Hidden

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Meander to Hazlitt for Linda Besner’s recent reading of Alfred Hermida’s Tell Everyone: Why We Share and Why it Matters. Besner’s critique is particularly concerned with the role of anonymity in a new, social-media-dominated landscape:

Social media, in other words, is a gift economy, in which we share information both in the expectation that others will share important information with us and in the hopes of increasing our social capital . . . Anonymous gift-giving can be a way to keep us focussed on the social good of our contribution rather than on how good it makes us look. Social media users sometimes complain that rather than authentic sharing, these platforms encourage self-aggrandizement and self-promotion. If Facebook’s question, “What’s on your mind?” were answered anonymously, would some of us answer more earnestly?


Casey Dayan is a Rumpus intern and musician. He is finishing up his undergraduate studies in literature and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he is working on a memoir and trying to one-up Jeff Buckley. Find his twitter here, @caseydayan. Find his band, “Moo,” here. More from this author →