As this semester comes to a close, I look back on my ‘Initial Thought’ post and find that I still struggle with putting words to paper. Coming into this class, I knew the blogs were going to be a challenge for me given I prefer numbers to words. While this still holds true, I managed to survive the assigned writing assignments and in the process learned a great deal about social media and digital business. The student presentations, Twitter news feed, guest speakers, and required class readings all evoked interesting and insightful class discussions. These different channels of information resulted in a well-rounded curriculum that focused on up-to-date subjects and material.
Prior to taking this class, I never really weighed the pros and cons of social media rather I tended to only acknowledged the benefits. From staying connected and networking to receiving and watching the latest news, I never gave much thought to any of the disadvantages. I like to think its because I was never a heavy user of social media before enrolling in this class. However, as a result of this class, I now have a new outlook on social media and how it can negatively impact consumers’ self-confidence, relationships, and privacy. Below you’ll find the two topics that altered my view on social media the most.
From Bullies to Trolls
Growing up, I’d encounter at least one bully in my elementary or middle school class who found pleasure in being mean to other students. However, the mistreatment involved telling secrets, cutting lines, or excluding classmates from activities or groups. I believe the bullying was relatively minor given he/she could not hide behind a computer. With the advancements in technology and social platforms, bullying has been taken to a whole new level, while simultaneously taking on a whole new meaning, trolling.
While I could have guessed that some of our classmates have been subjected to minor trolling, I was surprised to learn that the majority of them have experienced more severe forms of trolling, including emotional intimidation, verbal abuse, or social abuse. I always imaged trolls to be just that, ‘trolls’ – basement dwellers who do not contribute to society. However, it was alarming to learn that a large number of trolls are in fact doctors, lawyers, elementary school teachers (must learn it from their students), and inspirational speakers. They are actually real people that we may know and who function normally in the world. While these trolls are attempting to drown out other people’s voices, social media platforms are starting to take small steps to remove the trolls’ unwanted comments. Over the course of the semester, both Instagram and Facebook implemented updates that allow users to block “inappropriate comments” on their posts and set filters for specific words. I feel it is their obligation to ensure its members feel safe. Social media platforms have a long ways to go in order to protect its users from unwanted comments this is a step in the right direction.
Alone, Bored, Or Socially Awkward?
I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve gotten distracted by my phone while writing this blog. I’ve checked my social media accounts, text messages, and email numerous times as a method of procrastination. Considering its finals week for me, I’ve been isolated in my apartment for the last 3 days studying. However, I weirdly feel connected to my friends just by checking their social media accounts and receiving SnapChats from them. I used to think it was just a way to cure my boredom; however, Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk made me realize that it is actually a way for me to not feel alone.
I find it funny though that I frequently find my friends, siblings, and even my parents with their faces glued to their phones when they are in a social setting. Why would anyone feel alone when they are surrounded by familiar faces? Today, individuals feel more comfortable contacting one another via text messages and emails rather than having a face-to-face conversation or picking up the phone. This is causing younger generations to learn social skills later and later in life; and therefore, tend to be socially awkward and find it difficult to look people in the eye when talking to them. Ultimately, this will negatively impact their present and future relationships in their everyday and work life.
Professor Kane’s Social Media and Digital Business class provided insight into the pitfalls and consequences that come with being a user of social media platforms. I now find myself being hyper aware of comments and usage behaviors of social media that I once overlooked. I’m eager to see what changes social media platforms make to either enhance or further upset users’ safety and relationships.