The panel discusses the place of kinship in the light of the ways people create and maintain personal relationships and networks using social media. It explores kinship in direct juxtaposition with other networks such as 'traditional' friendship and 'online' only friendship.
The panel discusses the place of kinship in the light of the ways people create and maintain personal relationships and networks using social media. In some places, social media has reinforced traditional social networks such as families divided by mobility and migration, but it has also allowed the emergence of new types of social relations, solidarities, friendships and kin ties. Social media has also presented certain possibilities both to display and to conceal these relations, and to create social groups of different sizes. This range of groups means that social media enables what could be called "scalable sociality". The panel presents reflections on the current state of kinship in relation to social media based on ethnographic studies around the world. It draws on nine long-term ethnographic studies carried out in different small and medium-sized towns as part of the Why We Post project (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/why-we-post), and the increasing number of ethnographic studies more generally where social media has been encountered as an important space for families, extended kinship and other relationships. By focusing upon social media we can assess kinship in direct juxtaposition with other networks such as 'traditional' friendship and 'online' only friendship, or the new role of strangers as social media confidants. In particular, the panel explores family relationships in contrast to relationships built on choice, such as friendship and romantic relations. What happens when one's mother 'friends' you, for instance?