Doctor Who and my own little social media bubble 

Preparing the latest edition of my textbook on social capital, I became particularly interested in the way that social media are shaping our social connections. Judging by the research available, social media play a complex role in which they sometimes complement and sometimes compete with face to face relationships. And sometimes they mirror each other.

One way in which social media mirror face to face interaction is a tendency towards homophily. Most people like to follow others on social media who are broadly similar to themselves – just as they do in other social interactions. Yet the main benefit of social media is the opportunity they provide for interacting with those who are very different from yourself. And if you think that being challenged by different perspectives is beneficial, as I do, then you try to build social media networks that are broad and diverse.

And I thought that was what I had done. During the Scottish referendum I managed to get attacked by Tweeps from both sides; I follow UKIPPERs, Corbynistas, Remainers, Welsh Nats, Lib Dems, some Tories and a Cornish independence campaigner; I follow people from different countries and speakers of four European languages. Some even follow golf and motor racing, which I hate with a vengeance. I don’t think I follow any racists, and certainly none who are overt, but I do follow some people who think all whites are at best deeply inclined towards racism. So it’s hardly an echo chamber – but clearly I’ve been too smug by half.

The new Doctor Who

Today I woke up to aTwitter storm over the new Doctor Who. The long running BBC series will now be led by a woman, played by the wonderful Jodie Whittaker, and my timeline was full of people protesting vociferously against others who had complained about the role going to a woman. But not a single tweet appeared from the protesters, not a single one.

Now it is possible that actually hardly anyone is really upset by a female Doctor. This is hardly radical casting: we’ve had feminist sci-fi for decades – why would one more female lead bother anyone? I can imagine that one or two of the usual rent-a-pen journalists might perform anger in order to generate a bit of click bait for their employer (I’m not going to name them, because that is what they want). But perhaps they are on their own this time.

Or perhaps I’ve stumbled across the boundaries of my own social media bubble. And even this bubble reflects face-to-face bonds, because I realise that I don’t actually know anyone who watches or even cares a fart about Doctor Who. On reflection, though, I am inclined to return to my smug default setting: what Twitter has done is connect me with a community that was previously unknown to me. How diverse is that?

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who and my own little social media bubble 

  1. You shouldn’t worry. I haven’t watched Dr Who since my children were small and looked at it from behind the sofa where they could retreat if it got too scary.  I am tempted to look to see how a woman fits the role and I don’t see why she shouldn’t. It’s difficult to see why those who protested  found it difficult to accept. Of course I might find it more difficult to accept a female Bond.    Best wishes Mike

  2. Hello!

    Beautifully interesting interweaving of thoughts!

    As to gender, Doering and Thébaud (2017) noted that gender-biased cultural beliefs could harm both men and women. The negative impact on woman includes difficulty in the acceptance by others of their workplace authority. Interestingly, the researchers found that workplace authority could also be an issue for men if they took on roles previously occupied by women.

    As to social media, I agree about how this modern tool plays an important role in our accessibility to diversity. It is interesting that for those of us who knew a world before social media, the tool can open up our world but at the same time leave us cognizant of the fact that we need to be weary and careful because “privacy settings” really are no guarantee that what we post, or share, is “safe.” For those who have only known a world with social media there can be a false sense of being in a safe cocoon. Because they are accessing social media from within the confines of their home, they may believe that they are actually in a private and safe environment.



    Doering, L. I., & Thébaud, S. (2017). The effects of gendered occupational roles on men’s and women’s workplace authority: Evidence from microfinance. American Sociological Review, 82(3), 542-567. doi:10.1177/0003122417703087

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