Snapchat’s affordances allow microcelebrities, to build and grow a social status through the concepts of social capital and social surveillance. This will be the basis of my argument as the following paper will analyse key concepts of social growth through the social media platform of Snapchat. I will look to analyse certain microcelebrities like Johnny Danger Life that have built a career from snapchat. Seeing the way in which the affordances has allowed microcelebrities to interact with the social surveillance of geo-filters and snap map will help this paper to argue and give an understanding into the way in which a person becomes popular on snapchat and stands out to the average person, on their way to building social capital and becoming a microcelebrity, “Social media is reducing social barriers. It connects people on the strength of human values, not identities”.
Snapchat is a mobile app which allows a person to send a captioned photo or video for a temporary amount of time. It works simply as a fun, interactive social messenger as it allows you to have full conversation with a person whilst at the same time being able to send funny, cool, interesting or personal “snaps”. It distinctively includes the use of key concepts such as social surveillance, which derives from the traditional forms of surveillance such as; power, hierarchy and reciprocity, as it influences societies behaviour and changes to the common forms of societal surveillance (Marwick, Alice E, 2012). Following through to social capital, we see it linked closely with the influences of social participation which essentially means platforms that provide common activities which emphasises human use and collaboration of a society (Van Dijck, 2013). Social capital is the use of social participation, to grow as a person’s relationships or collaborations, in order to establish themselves as personality or ‘microcelebrity’. However, to achieve this the social media platform, being Snapchat, must have affordances to do so. Hutchby states that “different technologies possess different affordances, and these affordances constrain the ways they are perceived” (Hutchby, 2001). For Snapchat, this effectively means that the affordances are constrained to the technology that exists at present. Right now, Snapchat has the ability to afford people to gain certain social capital and also to delve in social surveillance, however it is limited, as technology is forever changing and developing.
The extension to this is where we see out first concepts, being Snapchats affordances, or simply what Snapchat allows, or affords a person to do. Johnny Danger is a huge user of snapchat and constantly has new and comedic “my stories or snaps” that fuel his brand. The affordance of videos and photos that Snapchat possess, allows Johnny to express his comedic personality visually, rather than verbally or written like other forms of social media do not afford him to. The work of Gibson is where we see the idea of affordances fully portrayed. For Gibson “humans, animals, insects and other orient objects of the world” affordances are the possibilities that they offer for action or in snapchats sense the possibilities that the app and the technologies offer for people such as Johnny Danger and other micro snapchat celebrities (Gibson, 1979).
Johnny Danger first made an appearance on our television screens and Snapchat when he was arrested by police for “Taxi Surfing”. From there the name took off and the name “Danger” spread all throughout social media, especially Snapchat, where he properly began to grow his social status. His first real appearance was the birth of the “Danger Swig” which is effectively taking a sip, mainly a beer, a flicking your head back in a fast motion forming a very quick and “dangerous” swig. From here he grew to another level as he started to interact with the thousands of follows’ he had made and the danger swig craze took off as a snapchat sensation.
From here we can see that due to Snapchats’ visual affordances Johnny Danger was able to establish himself and begin to build a status and attain social capital, seeing the first link between the affordances and processes of Snapchat. His channel takes advantages of the affordances to film, record and caption so that he is able to establish and present himself as a rare and worthy figure among his particular social formation or social following (Harker, 1990). This effectively means that through Snapchat’s affordances Johnny Danger is able to present himself as someone who is worthy to attain a certain amount of social capital. Reaffirming the interaction between the concepts of affordances and processes of social media and development.
Further examining his channel, we see that it holds two major themes, food and alcohol. He links each of these themes to both the social surveillance and social capital side of his snaps. When “snapping” about food such as where he is eating or where he has eaten, he will always post a geo-filter. By doing this he will both brand himself and therefore market the restaurant or establishment he is eating in.. This works in two ways, one stating his location, so social surveillance can take effect and people (his following) will gravitate towards that restaurant seeing that he was there and also the factor of gaining more and more social capital as he begins to exclude himself from “us” and become rarer and worthy of the social system and gathering (Bourdieu, 1990).
From this idea, we see him expanding his culture to include more followers, evolving from the danger swig to now including food. Though his career as Snapchatter took off through the danger swig and much of his following is from the under 30 demographics, food in particular steak has also become a huge part of his attempt to build on social capital. The “medium rehur steak” phenomenon has taken over his Snapchat and is now just as big as what the danger swig was (Danger, 2017). Analysing his channel we see a now vast amount of it based around his idea that medium “rehur” is the best way to cook steak (Danger, 2017). Though this sounds childish, it has become a craze across much of his following. https://www.instagram.com/p/BSdC6KngGHV/?taken-by=johnnydanger_nz this is the link to the video to which the craze of Medium “Rehur” first started. Though this hyperlink is attached to Instagram the video is edited from five, ten-second snapchats that he originally posted on his “snap story” showing how he is interacting across different social media to consistently build his social capital. The save feature on snapchat has given him the affordances to this and he takes full advantage of it across many of his platforms, linking snapchat to either Facebook or Instagram.
Social surveillance is a key factor in the affordances of Snapchat. As Snapchat has developed it has continuously formed more ways to point out your location either through the geo-filters or the new snap map. The new feature of “snap-map” has raised many concerns about the threats of stalking and provoking marketers from being able to trace your every step (Thruman, 2017). However, this is not the only app that allows full tracking or surveillance over another person or third party. Dr Thruman has said snap map “has allowed law enforcement agencies to spy on innocent citizens, such as legitimate protestors and trade union members. But as bad as Snap map is, it’s just one of a range of apps that do more or less the same thing”. This effectively means that though Snapchat stands out a major app that applies to social surveillance, it is not the only one as each form of social media has its own way of surveying or tracking people, one way or another, whether it is through target marketing like Facebook or whether it’s as simple as looking at snap maps and watching geo-filters.
In terms of applying this Johnny Danger and his channel, we see that he as a marketer will see the trends of spots that people mostly socialise in, or talk about and look to link his material to that. One of the most common areas for his material is at music festivals and most noticeably Rhythm and Vines. By being able to have surveillance through Snapchat he can cater his videos and photos to what people are thinking about at that particular time, making him very popular through certain periods of the year.
As shown above, we see him at Rhythm and Vines, displaying a snapchat of him on stage with many of his following trying to be in the snap in the background. The caption also gives us an understanding of where he is along with the link to his snapchat handle, involving both a geo-tag and also some self-branding.
In summary, we see through analysing Johnny Danger’s Snapchat account or channel, the way affordances, social surveillance and social capital all interact to create and build micro-celebrities among social media. We have seen through the certain affordances of Snapchat, such as videos, photos and captions the way that a person can build and initiate social capital by going viral with something as simple as the danger swig and then take advantage of that to build into the craze of medium “rehur” steak and now the Danger larger. From there a person is able to attain his or her capital through social surveillance where they continue to establish themselves as someone who is more “worthy” or “rare” than the common user on social media.
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Johnny Danger (@johnnydanger_nz) • Instagram photos and videos. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.instagram.com/johnnydanger_nz/
Dr Neil Thruman. Social media is making mass surveillance easier than ever — and we’re just embracing it. (2017, July 24). Retrieved from http://www.zmescience.com/science/social-media-24072017/
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