How to Evaluate a Source Homework

The essay I have chosen to incorporate into my last paper is an article from The New York Times Style Magazine titled, “Look Out, It’s Instagram Envy: Sign of The Times”. The article was written by Sarah Nicole Prickett and was published on November 6, 2013.

The article centers around the social media application known as Instagram, analyzing and discussing the role that the app plays in our perception of those around us and, as a result, our perception of ourselves. Prickett begins the article by stating that, “Instagram has created a new kind of voyeurism,” as many people today gain some form of guilty pleasure by using the app to spy into the lives of the “rich and famous” or simply those who seem to have it better than them. This desire, Prickett claims, has been around long before the invention of the internet and instagram. She traces this desire back to 19th century Paris and 20th century New York, where flâneurs, more colloquially known as wanderers or window shoppers, would walk up and down the streets of these cities and peer into the windows of arcades and departments stores. Doing so would allow these flâneurs to envy and admire the products behind the windows, leading them to wish they could have what was on the other side. Prickett claims that instagram is the current day equivalent to window shopping, saying that it is, “the app built to make you covet your neighbor’s life,” but on a grander and more global scale. People use the app to gaze at what everyone else around the world has and wish they had it too.  Like shopping items displayed behind a window, Prickett notes that the images of items/stuff depicted on instagram are often carefully selected, staged and filtered to make an “instagrammers” life appear to be more effortless and perfect than it really is. She highlights this concept when she explains that when an “instagrammer” posts a picture of shoes, “what each says is not that ‘this is a good shoe’ or ‘these shoes look good on me,’ but ‘these shoes look good in my life.’” She notes that people put so much effort into making their lives look perfect and effortless through their instagram photos because, “These are technically still lifes, but in spirit they are actually the new self portraiture.” In other words, these people closely associate the stuff they own and they way they present it to the world with their identity. Therefore, they put a lot of time and effort into refining and perfecting the way they want the world to see them.

I chose this essay because I find Prickett’s interpretation of instagram very interesting. As an Instagram user myself,  I too have found myself, often subconsciously, envying the lives of others while using the app. In addition, I chose this essay because I see numerous connections I can make between this text, Wasik’s text and the other in class texts to help me support an argument in paper three.

I found this article on the website that Professor Emerson provided. To determine whether or not this source was acceptable, I used the library techniques our class learned and put the text up against the CRAAP test. First, I evaluated the currency of the text. As the article was published in 2013, it seems to be current enough for my purposes. Next, I evaluated the relevance of the text. The topic of the text, which is instagram and how it makes its users envious, is very relevant to our topic of using the internet as a tool for meaning making and pursuing purpose. After relevance, I evaluated the authority of the article. The author is listed and after some brief research on her background, Prickett seems to be an established journalist and editor in New York. Next, I evaluated the accuracy of the text. To support her analysis, Prickett used mostly examples, personal and otherwise, from instagram. When she referenced these examples, she named the owners of those instagram accounts which, in a way, was naming her sources. The article focuses mostly on Prickett’s observations and opinions on instagram and, therefore, it does not contain a lot of citable, outside research. Finally, I evaluated the purpose of the source. The source was published in The New York Times Style Magazine and therefore makes me believe it was published for commercial purposes. Based on the fact that Prickett offers only her particular view point, it seems as though the article was published because it contains information on what is popular/current now in culture as it relates to fashion. Overall, I decided that the article contains enough relevant, accurate and trustworthy information to use as a resource in my next paper.

One of the connections I plan to make and explore between my chosen text, and Wasik’s “My Crowd Experiment”, involves the idea of fitting in with the crowd/following the crowd. In Wasik’s text, he discusses the herd instinct in people that drives people to not want to be left out. Through technology and the mob project, Wasik shows that the internet increases this instinct in people.  In her article,  Prickett also notes that the internet ,specifically instagram, increases this feeling of wanting/having to fit in when she says, “belongings (that people post on their instagram) becoming so easily conflated with belonging.” Essentially, the internet is taking away from meaning making and purpose pursuing, which is meant to be highly individualized, because it is instead leading people to stick with the group/not branch out.

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1 Comment

  1. Elisha M Emerson

    I still admire that “window shopping” metaphor! Great work. You chose some really great quotes to represent Prickett’s work.

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