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Three people sit on a bench using their mobile devices. Two look at the same device while the other, wearing headphones, looks down.
Figure 1.1 Whether these students realize it or not, they are engaging in rhetoric by consuming and posting information on social media. (credit: "Together and Alone" by Garry Knight/flickr, CC-BY)

Your past experiences with computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices represent your conscious choice to connect with a global community. For example, you may post on social media sites where you receive instant feedback from around the world in the form of reposts or likes. Through these interactions, you are empowered to influence people more than at any other point in history. In fact, you may be on the road to becoming the next big social media influencer—a person with established credentials in a certain field with access to a large audience and who, because of popularity, can influence others’ actions. With applications that instantly translate into many languages, even language has become less of a barrier to your potential audience and thus to your potential influence. However, even though the world may be more connected now than ever before and communication may be faster, easier, more powerful, and more widely accessible, the basics of communication have not changed.

The essential element of all communication, past and present, including your social media posts and related comments, is the rhetorical situation: the conditions, or circumstances, of the communication and the agents, or people involved, in that communication. Notice that the term comes from the word rhetoric. Originally, rhetoric referred to the art of persuasive speaking or writing. Now it is used more inclusively to mean the “techniques and theories of communication.” And notice, too, that like the people in Figure 1.1, you are already using rhetoric every day as you find yourself in different rhetorical situations on social media. In this chapter, you will learn more about the use of rhetoric within rhetorical situations as you begin the journey of constructing bridges among the communication taking place on social media, in the world of academia, and in the world at large.

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