The Social Media Conundrum

This evening we discussed the rise and impact of Social Media. There were many points that come up throughout the discussion and we watched several TED talks around the thing that is Social Media.

One interesting discussion point was that I am of an age where I developed most of who I am as a person pre-social media. This is not the case for school age children now. They are growing up in the era of social media. They may not have it themselves but they see it in their peers, parents, media, TV, etc.

We also discussed this idea that people only post the “happy go lucky” version of their lives and how that isn’t necessarily different from the way they project how their life is in face to face relationships.

When you think of these two together though as my classmate pointed out. What effect is social media having on the development of personalities? Are young adults actually living the life that social media portrays because they want to or because they feel that this is who they have to “be”. Are they effectively able to develop as an individual within a world that has a heavy social media influence?

I teach younger students and I have seen first hand how their behavior on the football pitch is direct copying of the behaviors they see of professional players. Now, this is not new because of technology. What is new is how widespread it is.  People have copied those that they idolize since forever, but now everyone can copy one or two people in minute detail with slow motion, play by play. Is this affecting them negatively? Is there even a way to study that to test that theory?

We also watched this TED Talk about public shaming that has happened on Twitter. He makes many good points but the one that struck a chord with us in class today was the idea that the person who spoke up and said: “I’ not sure her joke was intended to be racist.” (min 6:33) got shut down. Whereas the person who said that “Someone with aids should rape this b#$%^ and then we’ll find out if her skin color protects her from aids.” (minute 8:10) has no one telling them that their comment was inappropriate.

I have seen this multiple times on Facebook and it is something that I try to avoid but is not always possible. It is not always possible to avoid seeing it but I do avoid interacting with it. I don’t understand how people can claim to have one set of values but think it is also okay to speak like they have another set because they disagree with someone else’s beliefs, values, religion, etc. Being on the internet is not a free pass to bash people.

We also watched this video of a talk by Wael Ghonim who created the Facebook page that was one of the key rallying points for the Arab Spring. He points out that what started as a positive movement because large and unsustainable. That social media was at first a positive but in the end a detriment.

I have seen this first hand with Facebook groups that I have been in that became larger and unmanageable. They got to a point where the work it took to manage the content, messages, and personalities becomes almost a full-time job.

All and all I think it goes back to how the tool is used. This statement can be used in many contexts but it is true in social media. I think part of what makes it something that is going to be debated about for all time is that social media is so fast. It is fast to start, fast to change, fast to disappear, just fast. So it is a very dynamic “thing” which makes it hard to study, manage, and moderate.

 

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