Social Media and Popular Culture: Class, Media Framing, and Commodity Fetishism

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1777 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Words: 1777|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Mar 18, 2021

Social media in today’s society is an addiction. We spend the majority of our time scrolling through different applications to see what everyone has been up to, just for the sake of not missing out. Mainstream social media has been a part of our society for 16 years now. There are generations that do not know a world without it. The rise of social media began when Myspace was first released. From there, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat started and are now the applications people use for the majority of the day. Through the development of social media, we have created a hierarchy between individuals based on the brands they wear, the goods they have, and the people they have relationships with. Having the ability to only present snippets of one’s actual reality has led to people creating their own false realities, which can lead to the user being too involved in a reality that does not exist. Since social media has the power to separate class and disrupt reality, it also has the ability to create a need within the user to have the commodities that are popular and linked to celebrities. This essay will examine social media through class, media framing, and commodity fetishism.

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Social media has created an alternate reality with a lot of expectations on what one should have and look like. Through different forms of social media, such as Instagram, it is very easy to create a false identity and reality of what life looks like when in actuality it is the opposite. In today’s age, we have created a hierarchy between users. Those at the top of the chain wear expensive brands such as Gucci, Supreme, and Louis Vuitton, have amazing cars, are always going to exotic locations, etc. As a society, we make assumptions as to which class one belongs in, based on what they wear and whom they associate themselves with. For example, social media has made the skateboard brand Supreme very popular and we associate the brand with wealth. If we see someone on the streets wearing a Supreme t-shirt, it is automatically assumed that they have class. However, if we see someone on the street wearing a no named t-shirt, we then assume that they have no class. Rather than the person speaking for themselves, we speak on behalf of class.

As a society, we base class on their language, etiquette, and their budget. It is also seen through the phones everyone has. Popular culture states that an iPhone is the best phone and anyone without one is below them. Apples iPhone has been given a god-like status in our society right now. On Instagram, if someone posts a mirror selfie, everyone will then look at the phone they have and assume their class off that. On Twitter, if someone tweets something, below the tweet Twitter notifies users whether an Apple or Android device was used. Social media applications are partially to blame with the separation of class as it literally states the type of phone users use, which help in creating the digital divide. Separation and class are also seen when users tag the location they are at to showcase the luxury they have to be there. Furthermore, the most prominent separation of class in social media is the verification symbol. The three most used media applications are Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. All three-applications put a checkmark beside the user’s names who are classified as public figures, which means if you have above a certain number of followers then you are a verified user. The check mark essentially gives users royalty status online. Outside of the applications itself, the people we are seen interacting with also add to how individuals perceive us. It is human nature to want to be associated with those who are seen as ‘the king of the jungle’. It gives us a sense of comfort and allows us to feel as though we have some power. The people we interact with change our status. Due to this, in current society, it is important that everyone we associate ourselves with, hold themselves with a high status too. In social media, when we post pictures of ourselves with our friends, the first thought we have is to make sure everyone looks good because if they do, then so do you. People want to post pictures of themselves with those who have many ties as their associates then have a link with you. Everyone has very little control in the environmental and cultural resources they have, however, it is easy to build on social resources with the people we have links with. Knowing more people of class automatically brings you higher on the social chain. The Kardashians, for example, are the queens of social media. They have a lot of power. However, they show that power through whom they are acquainted with. The family has been linked with industry moguls such as Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Adele, etc. Either one of the Kardashians has posted a picture with one of these celebrities. This is a display of power as it shows users that the connections the Kardashians have run very deep in all industries.

Some of the divergences in class have to do with the fact we have been tuned by society to think a certain way based on what is ‘taught’ to us through social media. Media framing has allowed individuals to create multiple realities within a singular reality. We are able to showcase different sides of our world and tune it to make it seem perfect, almost as if it is a mythology. It causes individuals to become fixated in this fake reality they have created because everything is just the way they want it. It becomes an addiction as you continuously want to post every good thing that happens to extend the longevity of this fake reality. It has come to a point where society says that if it is not on your Snapchat story then it did not happen. In 1989 theorist James Carey wrote about how reality has become very scarce now due to mass media having the ability to alter and show only a particular side of a story. Carey was able to identify the scarcity of reality at a period in time when the idea of social media had not been yet conceived or introduced. In a time where social media is essentially what everyone lives off of, the scarcity of reality has increased as the current age of social media makes it easier to alternate reality. Theorist Denis McQuail stated that social media has impacted us by allowing individuals to construct their own social reality by showcasing images of an ‘ideal’ world. Social media has set a guideline for what viewers are supposed to think based on what they see. If someone posts a picture of themselves holding their partner’s hand at a beach, they are showcasing only a small part of their life that looks good. As a viewer, the first thought would be regarding how the couple is ‘goals’. From there the viewer would assess the setting and rank where the couple is on the social ladder. Media framing has led us to only see only a portion of the full story and has set up predetermined reactions we are supposed to have. For example, if someone of higher-class posts on their Snapchat story of them wearing the latest Air Jordan’s, the viewer’s automatic reaction is the need for that item. Social media and class have led those of middle class to feel the pressure of having items we see on social media ‘celebrities’ so that we feel as though we are at the same level as them.

Class in social media has led to commodity culture. The feeling of needing everything someone from an upper class has. As mentioned before, having luxurious goods allows one to be superior to another. The desire of having such power creates a need in individuals to have the goods they see high-class individuals wearing. If we see a picture of model Kendall Jenner wearing a new Dolce and Gabbana skirt on their runway, we, as consumers, automatically want it because someone who has a high status on social media is wearing it. The skirt could have been the ugliest piece of clothing ever, however, the item is linked with status and power; thus, it is something we want. The influence social media has on everyone’s lives have led us to fetishize commodities, that at the end of the day do not hold a lot of real-life value. Many writers have said that commodity fetishism is when value is added to items in a certain way that it suddenly has more value, which then amplifies the desire for the commodity. With today’s culture, when a social media celebrity posts a picture or video of themselves, consumers then want everything the celebrity had in the image. In situations like this, consumers add value to the goods with the thought that it will make them look “cool”, which equals to more status. This thinking is what leads everyone to give in to such urges. Referring back to verified check marks on social media application, the need to be considered royalty on social media has led people to purchase the verification check mark. There are accounts that specialize in providing users with the check mark, however, the price tag attached to it is a lot. It is due to the culture that has been created that leads individuals to feel the need to have the check mark. It symbolizes a verification for the user’s false reality that they created. Commodity fetishism has been happening long before social media amplified it. People have always had a fetish of wanting items they do not have. The only difference is that now, the need of having commodities brings a sense of status, social meaning, and belonging.

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Essentially social media has evolved a lot through its many years. It has created a system of class within applications. The difference in class is seen through types of pictures posted, locations that are tagged for posts, and the verification check mark users get. Users also have the ability to create the illusion that they are of high class on social media due to having the capability to alter and only display the ‘good’ in life. The divergence of class then creates a commodity culture. Users all want to jump into the wagon that leads them closer to being higher class. Overall, social media today has led many people questioning their class, reality, and whether their want for commodities is an actual need or fetish. 

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Dr. Oliver Johnson

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Social Media And Popular Culture: Class, Media Framing, And Commodity Fetishism. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
“Social Media And Popular Culture: Class, Media Framing, And Commodity Fetishism.” GradesFixer, 18 Mar. 2021,
Social Media And Popular Culture: Class, Media Framing, And Commodity Fetishism. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 May 2024].
Social Media And Popular Culture: Class, Media Framing, And Commodity Fetishism [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Mar 18 [cited 2024 May 21]. Available from:
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