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How to Read this Webtext

This webtext argues that smartphone users make important rhetorical decisions when selecting a social media app on their device. In the spirit of these available rhetorical choices, each icon on the smartphone navigational menu at the right will take you to a different section of this webtext.

The G+ and power button icons lead back to this homepage.

Each individual webpage (beyond this homepage) also includes an additional table of contents that indicates the titles of the other pages; this menu describes the content that can also be accessed by clicking on the smartphone icons.


This webtext suggests the need to re-think our conversations about the intersections between social media, rhetoric, and composition: While social media sites remain potentially productive and valuable pedagogical tools, further investigation into how they function as spaces of rhetorical discourse is needed. Based on an IRB-approved qualitative study conducted with first-year composition students at a Midwestern public university, I argue that, for composition teachers who hope to utilize social media to support student writing, recognition of the rhetorical potential of students’ use of multiple social sites—as active users of not just Facebook, but also Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and others—emerges as a necessary prerequisite to meeting student expertise in rhetoric. Using Lloyd Bitzer’s (1968) concept of the “rhetorical situation" as my primary framework, I demonstrate that students already intuitively negotiate and define audience, exigencies, and constraints when they decide whether something is, for instance, “Facebook-worthy” or “Twitter-worthy”—they simply need the critical vocabulary and distance with which to analyze it. I conclude that these networks can provide an invaluable access point for first-year composition students into a complex, multifaceted understanding of rhetoric that will serve them in college and in their everyday lives.

Elisabeth H. Buck is pursuing her PhD in rhetoric and composition at Ball State University.
She can be reached via email at or found on Twitter at @ElisabethHBuck.
All images used for this study or appearing on this site were modified from publicly accessible profiles or obtained via Google Commons, and are covered by academic fair use.

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