New Criticals

Professional and Social Pay Offs

For many, affective work on social media is a professional necessity, either in the form of actually remunerated labor or in the hazier form of entrepreneurial "aspirational" or "venture" labor (Duffy and Marwick 2013; Neff 2012). My media studies undergraduates hold internships where their tasks include managing corporate social media accounts; dexterity with today's (and tomorrow's) popular platforms is a requirement of the job. In my own research on Facebook abstention, I found that many would-be abstainers still used Facebook on behalf of their employers or in execution of their work duties. In other words, they wanted to quit, but had no choice about logging on. Beyond social media use that is mandated on the job, online social networking has become compulsory for imagined future professional achievement. I'm not speaking here of the kind of branded, promotional broadcasting of the self via social media, described evocatively by Banet-Weiser (2012) and Hearn (2008), among others. Rather I mean that social media is clearly a place where real affective ties are forged and maintained as social capital (Ellison, Steinfeld, and Lampe 2007). These ties don't just happen, and simply initiating or accepting a friend request isn't enough; they are relationships that must be conscientiously nurtured through interaction and skillful reciprocal attention (Tufekci 2008). This ongoing work of "caring" for one's professional contacts is not explicitly feminine—it's certainly not career advice that is reserved for female workers alone—but it is reminiscent of the broad "feminization of work" in the post-Fordist, service-oriented economy, as documented so well by Angela McRobbie (2011) and other observers of neoliberalism. Given the centrality of caring labor to the professional and economic livelihoods of so many, it is easier said than done to shun participation if one expects gainful employment, particularly in industries where social networking is a fact of the everyday workplace.