’Action’ is not a combination of ‘acts’: ‘acts’ are constituted only by a discursive moment of attention to the duree of lived-through experience. Nor can ‘action’ be discussed in separation from the body, its mediations with the surrounding world and the coherence of an acting self. — Anthony Giddens
I draw from this the importance of understanding social activities online within a context of routines and habits created and maintained by users. It’s impossible to grasp the real motives and interests of users if we look only at the actions enabled on an application’s interface. Those are actions that enable user activities, yes. But they are meaningful only if we embed these individual actions in a flow of user activities sustained over time.
For this reason, it’s important to view actions within the context of activity. Activity, again, not only on the content and media of social tools. But activity within which a user engages through his or her own interests in self image, relationships, perception, reputation, and so much more.
Giddens (among many others) would argue that we approach these “activities of the Self” in part by recourse to the discourses that govern or describe social pastimes. Presence and participation in online media are one such pastime. So how we talk about social media, and how we talk through social media, belong to this discourse.
If we can grasp the importance social media engagement has for a user, and how it is reinforced by their own activities on social tools, as well as those of their peers, then we can design better for the needs and interests of users and for the social outcomes those design decisions may have.