Mads Middelboe Rehder, Ph.D. School of Communication and Culture, Aarhus University, Denmark
Social media practices among separated young siblings – when bodily memories shape the perceptions of mediated interactions
Memory, presence, social media, siblings, materiality, phenomenology
This article will discuss how the use of social media among young people in families has specific characteristics connected to embodied memories and materialities which allow siblings to experience being present in each other’s lives through social media. This article explores how siblings, who have reached early adulthood and left home, have the unique potential to build a mediated presence in each other’s lives through the use of social media.
The article is based on research completed as part of the Ph.D. “Sibling Presence” (Rehder, 2016) which explored the online behaviors of separated early adult siblings working to maintain a presence in each other’s lives. The empirical material was the result of fieldwork with 8 young people in Denmark, ages 16-21, between the years 2012-2014. Data collection involved filmed participant observation, semi-structured interviews, informal conversations, video recordings created by the participants and online observation with participants on Facebook.
The use of social media between young people within families has been a neglected area of research in both media and family studies (Horst, 2010; Madianou & Miller, 2012; Pink et al., 2016; Winther, Palludan, Gulløv, & Rehder, 2015). Many siblings have a history of living together. Therefore, they often have shared memories and intimate knowledge of each other’s everyday life and daily rhythms (Edwards, Hadfield, Lucey, & Mauthner, 2006; Smart, 2007). When siblings connect through Facebook, they can draw on mutual experiences. Many have experiences of sleeping in the same room. Others remember sleeping on opposite sides of a thin wall, hearing the night lamp switch off, knocking on the wall to say goodnight, and then listening for the rustle of sheets and blankets the next morning. When messaging each other on Facebook, they can continue participating in each other’s daily rhythms and routines. Breakfast and dinner conversations around the kitchen table about school, exams, homework, friends, band practice, films and music are now migrated to mediated interactions. In this setting, they create digital sedimentations and build an online history of relatedness.
The article expands upon the relation between memories, materialities and experiences using the perspective of phenomenology of the body (Merleau-Ponty, 2012) in combination with the theory of post-phenomenology (Ihde, 1990). This theoretical framework posits that bodily memories create the foundation for the experience of every perception. This allows for the experience of presence to occur in spite of physical absence building on memories through quasi-presence (Merleau-Ponty, 2012). The concepts of unilateral quasi-presence and reciprocal quasi-presence are created and elaborated upon to highlight the different dynamics in the way materialities and social media can create the sense of quasi-presence. The article argues that the sense of quasi-presence which interplays with separated siblings’ shared memories of the past can shape the experience of real time presence as well as the expectations of the future.
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Rehder, M. M. (2016). Sibling presence : A phenomenological study of separated young siblings’ everyday life focusing on technology, materialities and bodily experience (English title, the Ph.D. – dissertation is in Danish). Copenhagen: DPU – Danish School of Education, Aarhus University.
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