I’m a man who is quite regularly mistaken for a woman. It has been happening for years, it happens every six months or so, and it happened again just last Friday at the dining hall here at Le Moyne as a female colleague and I paid for our lunch. The cashier was a bit occupied and, seeing the two of us approach said, “I’ll be right there ladies.” She noticed and said sorry; we paid and went on our way. My sociologist colleague and I threw around some possible reasons that I’m so regularly confusing: I’m short; my hair is curly to the point it’s a natural perm; I was with a woman and the cashier saw her first. I don’t recall the first time it happened and I’d guess it probably bothered me, but it happens enough now that when somebody does it I often turn into a field sociologist and ask them why they thought I was a woman. Nobody ever gives a very clear answer, and almost everybody is fairly flustered by their called out sex miscategorization. I may never know why this happens, but it makes me think about some fun sociological questions too: How does it affect the interaction? Why do people say sorry? Can I learn anything about gender identity in daily life?
What is music? This is one of those classic questions that seems easy on the face of it, but then becomes remarkably complicated when you think about it for a minute or two. I’ll skip that mess, and ask a different question: what is the meaning of a music collection? I’ve got a relatively large music collection by some people’s standards, but an embarrassingly small collection next to some people I know. What’s that collection say about me? I estimate that I’ve got around 800 CDs, and there are about 7,000 songs on my iPod. I don’t own any vinyl, and only a handful of cassette tapes, most of which are mixes I made from CDs to play in my first car. In terms of genre, my music collection is heavily 80s and 90s alternative, Americana, and a bit of punk. I’m a product of my time and social location, and I’d argue my music collection is good evidence of that. (I swear the GSS used to list a finding about people saying their favorite music was what they listened to in high school, but I can’t find it anywhere). A sociological discussion of music would probably consider the relationships between race, class, and gender, among other variables, and one’s tastes. It would be an exploration of social capital, and I know it’s been done. But, what about the meaning of a music collection? (more…)
This post was inspired by a great series of essays about, broadly, the self on Facebook by Nathan Jurgenson, Rob Horning, and Whitney Erin Boesel. They’ve given more careful thought to these issues and you really should read their essays if you are interested in identity and ‘the web.’ Here I’ll just say a little bit about why I quit Facebook and how I think quitting was related to the performance of self and social time.
I was on Facebook for about 4 years, and I was a very active user. I know people who are reluctant to make status updates or share things, but I wasn’t one of those people. I made a large number of mostly inane status updates. I’d sit and wait for new status updates like an addict. For a long time it was a lot of fun. I didn’t play a lot of the games; for me creating and reading status updates was the fun. Like a lot of people, I didn’t like how often I was hitting refresh, but I didn’t quit Facebook because it was taking up too much of my day.