“Final” Thoughts…

The “Final” in “Final Thoughts” is supposed to indicate that Social Media and Digital Business, the class, has come to an end. But in reality, this will in no way be the final time I think about the topics that we’ve discussed over the semester.

I started the course with simple expectations. Like most other 21 year olds, I was an avid user of several social platforms, was mildly interested in tech, and thought the idea of tweeting for a class to be both amusing and fun.

I didn’t realize how hard it is to keep up with everything going on in the tech world. THERE ARE JUST SO MANY ARTICLES. Even with the #IS6621 feed, I found myself clueless when certain topics were brought up during our weekly Twitter discussions. Nonetheless, this was definitely one of the best semesters to take this course, especially since a minor happening known as the 2016 presidential election was going on.

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Thank God this is over.

I think one of the best parts of this class was being able to observe how the interests and passions of my classmates could be applied in the social media and digital business context. Every week, the individual presentations introduced me to ideas that I had limited knowledge about, or ones that I had never considered at any point in my life. Whether the subject was professional sports, the music industry, fintech or video games, I was consistently entertained and informed, and ended up learning so much over the past three months.

Our class material also allowed us to examine tech and social media through various lenses. We constantly looked at things from sociological and economic perspectives. What kind of impact is online harassment having on our communities? Can we adequately replace the millions of jobs that will inevitably vanish due to autonomous vehicles and other intelligent machines? The overarching point is that social media and technology do not exist in a vacuum. The intersectional implications are numerous and important. It was these discussions that made the class so interesting – to think about social media not from how it may affect us in our university microcosm, but also how it might impact events in other spaces, and what that might mean for business, society, and the future.

Because of our discussions in class, I do some things differently now. I still read the New York Times daily, but occasionally I will also check out what journalists at Fox News are writing (as painful as it is), for fear of getting sucked into a liberal echo chamber. When new technologies debut, I think more about how they might impact our lives and our jobs (Amazon Go – SO COOL but a death knoll for cashiers). I think this is a necessary result of any impactful class – to make people consider things from an alternative point of view, regardless of how uncomfortable or counter-intuitive that might be.

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Sigh.

One big theme of this course was attempting to decipher whether or not social media is a benefit to society or a terrible curse that has only contributed to the regression of mankind. Many of the videos and essays we watched and read also warned of the more sinister side of social media. While anecdotal, a lot of the stories are pretty terrifying. Del Harvey’s story about how geodata could potentially lead to the stalking and harm of the person posting the content could form the basis of a digital-age horror movie.

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Del Harvey, VP of Trust and Safety at Twitter, and her cat, Eli

I know these TED talks and scholarly articles and thought experiments are designed to be provocative – how else are you supposed to get people to talk? That’s not to say that the issues presented in the texts that we engaged in over the course of this semester aren’t real or relevant; they are very much so. That being said, I’m skeptical that Google is actually making us dumber, or that adolescents today are inept at holding face-to-face conversations, or that we’re only consuming media that aligns with our political ideologies.

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You hear that, teenagers-who only-know-how-to communicate-via-emojis? There’s hope for you.

Yes, there is certainly some of that happening. But for the most part I think social media and technology are blessings, albeit not perfect ones. Like anything originally designed to improve life in some manner, they can also be utilized for really silly objectives. Even worse, they can be transformed by people with twisted imaginations and intentions into tools for harm – whether that is to promote terrorism, sexual harassment, fraud, etc.

But most people will continue to use these platforms for their original and best purposes. Connecting with friends and family. Sharing journalism that better informs others. Tagging people in over-circulated memes. The digital world is your oyster.

I’m kind of sad that I will no longer be blogging after this week. I could keep a personal blog but honestly, that kind of stuff is way too difficult without an academic incentive. Anyway, it was a pleasure. Peace out, #IS6621.

3 comments

  1. Nice wrapup. I’m glad you’ve started reading alternative news sources (although I find it painful, too, it’s important). I did have only one student in 5 years continue blogging after this class, so you’re not alone!

  2. I’m with you. Google is not making us dumber, we simply have greater access to information and can focus our energy on other areas of our lives. The only risk I see (which you also touched upon) is whether we will use the human connection as we continue to expand into digital worlds.

    Interestingly enough, one of the biggest trends in technology today is the idea of “empathy”. This concept, which is borrowed from design thinking, is based on the idea that we need to not just understand what our customers need, but also what they value and believe in order to deliver the right solution. My hope is that a focus on empathy will help us maintain a strong connection to the rest of the world even as technology continues to change our lives.

  3. Great final post! I had similar feelings coming into the course, especially thinking that Twitter would be a breeze, and I was similarly surprised to find out just how much work this class would be. Like you said, though, this seems to be one of the most-interesting semesters that we could have possibly taken this class. In retrospect, we were incredibly lucky to be studying the developments of social media as they were happening in real time. Beyond that, I really enjoyed your final thoughts on social media as a tool that improves our lives but comes with its downsides, like anything else.

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