New Criticals

In autonomist terms, we might see some instances of media refusal as "engaged withdrawal" from an exploitative system of work (Virno 1996). The autonomist approach to labor recognizes that it may be refused, rather than unthinkingly adopted as a natural state of affairs. As Weeks (124) explains, this was one aim of the autonomist feminists who demanded "wages for housework"; they wanted not to valorize domesticity, but to make it something women could feel empowered to refuse rather than destined to embody by virtue of their biology (Federici 1995, 191). Refusing to be on Facebook can be a powerful move toward distancing oneself from the less-than-wonderful aspects of the contemporary media economy, in which social network users do ever more work for corporations with ever less compensation and self-determination. At the same time, though, this kind of refusing move carries different consequences for different subjects, meaning that opting out is less of an "option" for some than for others. In this, media refusal is like all other forms of lifestyle activism. The stakes of withdrawal are higher for those whose offline professional and social success depend on the practices of connection and care that social media enables them to participate in. In coming to a full understanding of the media refusal tactic, we must turn toward the social media users whose activity and subjectivity as both users and as people at large is directly linked to the work of care. These users can be discussed in terms of at least two, non-mutually exclusive, groups (though there may be more): those who are carers by economic necessity, and those whose social and self-identities are bound up with caring roles.