In preparation for this post I reread my Initial Thoughts on Social Media post. Turns out I was pretty ignorant to the widespread usage and impact of social media. Reminded me of the old intro to MTV Diary. Thank you Kelly Clarkson for the trip down memory lane back to 2002.
I was so focused on Social Media referring to people glued to Facebook newsfeeds, animal faced snapchats, and food pictures on instagram. In my mind, I was relatively immune to the “evils” of Social Media and was under the influence that it didn’t have a big impact on my life. In other words, I was a bit of a hater…
When I started this course I thought I would learn about how Social Media has transformed the way companies interact with consumers. While this was covered in class it’s not what I am taking away from the semester (sorry Professor Kane). Another topic I thought would be important was Social Media as a communication medium with friends. With liking, tweeting, posting, friending, poking, it’s pretty difficult to keep up. Once again, this topic isn’t really my take away from the semester. Both are relevant to the evolution and role of Social Media in society but neither gave me that feeling of revelation. So the question is, what did I take away from a semester of Social Media?
What really stood out and stuck with me was the hidden power of social media. By hidden power I mean how social media is quickly and quietly transforming individuals. My reflections became very centered on myself. How was social media sneaking into my life and shaping my thoughts and actions? Was social media changing who I was as a person? Luckily being on the wrong side of 30 means that I remember a life before technology. Although I don’t remember a life without technology, I do remember reading newspapers and using Microsoft Encarta for conducting research.
Learning about inconsistent Google search results, fake news, and the concept of a filter bubble make me realize that society puts too much faith in technology and is often blind to its imperfections. I was suddenly questioning my own polarized political view, affinity for CNN, and continuing favoritism towards liberal reporting. The fear that a machine was controlling my perspective on the world was quite unsettling. It made me start to force myself out of my own tech bubble. I found myself reading several news sites to get a well-rounded story. What’s difficult to combat and almost downright scary is the filter bubble. I’m not sure how to tell Facebook and Google to present me with different stories and results. Knowing might be half the battle but I’m still worried about losing the war…
Another internal reflection revolved around the fact that nothing in my life was private anymore. I mildly worry about my apartment getting broken into while I’m posting picture on vacation but to be honest it doesn’t keep me up at night. We should all be a little more concerned about the amount of data being stored on the internet. The amount of personal data available, posted both by my friends and me, is immense. You may think that you are being careful with you posts and privacy settings but it’s difficult to control he information that other people post about you. To assume that information can still be private is naïve. It’s impressive that more identities don’t get stolen. Security questions often include birthdays, zip codes, mother’s maiden name, and other very simple data points that can be easily found with a couple clicks through Facebook.
In the end, I like to think of Social media as a wild animal. Some people may think it’s a good idea to pet the tiger, which is what happens when you put all your personal information online, trust the “news”, and ignore other sources. In reality, we all need to remember that the tiger has claws and teeth. We need to respect the strength and power of Social Media and be careful not to dismiss it as just for teens and companies. It holds a prevalent role in today’s society and it seems to keep getting larger. Now that it has grown to this size, we need to think about how to monitor and police social media so that supports instead of defines our future.