Social Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

With each passing class, it seemed like every night there was so much to talk about on social media and in the digital business world.  From PR disasters to rogue national parks the course touched on so many different topics and developments in the digital world that, despite not exactly being a room full of blockchain experts, we certainly learned a lot about the different ways tech is changing the game in so many different digital scenarios.

The Good

One of my favorite aspects of the class was the spectrum of different presentations we saw.  So many different and interesting topics were explored and the opportunity to tap into someone’s personal and professional experiences is so valuable from an education standpoint.  The mere array of different topics seems to echo the notion that digital business has the potential to affect so many different types of organizations and people.  We saw fantastic presentations on social issues, new and exciting apps, comedy, and HR practices to name a few.  We got a unique look into other countries and how they are adapting to digital changes and we were able to hear from presenters who had actually experienced the technology in those places.  That personal touch made these topics accessible and relevant and really stimulated my interest in the course as a whole.

I also found the class discussion absolutely essential to processing the information fire hose that was our #is6621 feed.  Our discussions kept me incredibly involved in the latest social media happenings in a way that heightened my awareness to it outside of class.  I found myself constantly coming to class every week looking forward to hearing if I had missed anything on the feed during the prior week and was able hear about a lot of digital business news that I might have missed if it weren’t for our weekly open forum.  There were many topics that I thought I had a grasp on but realized once others began asking questions that there was so much more to learn and our discussion kept me informed week to week.

The Bad

Our Twitter feed was a roller coaster all semester long.  Every once a while during a class someone would mention a moment that I hadn’t heard about and I was reminded just how influential the social hive mind is on a group of people.  Hearing about Justine Sacco and the United Airlines fiasco reminded me that social media is ultimately made up of people, and just like a bunch of unsupervised middle schoolers, if you throw all those people in one forum with no real oversight, mob mentality can really do a number on a person or company’s reputation.  I remember scrolling through the tweets about United and seeing angry newsreaders holding insulting signs at United terminals in response to the doctor being injured while being removed from the flight.  I remember thinking, those poor United gate attendants that have nothing to do with that one incident or with the PR department or CEO’s response and yet they will be the butt of every joke so long as the video is the most shocking thing the news can air for the time being.  It’s clear that social media is a powerful channel for conversation but can worsen the effects of human nature when the discourse reaches a critical mass.

The Ugly

The mere fact that sensationalist airplane stories became a trend speaks to the unbiased nature of social media.  It really is just a pipeline for the information we all choose to share, and in an age where reading a headline often replaces actual news consumption, 140 characters or less may be doing a bit of a disservice to how we share information.

This class has made me realize that although sharing information has become easier than ever, it has given way to the infectious spread of whatever content gets clicks the easiest, regardless of its veracity or substance.  Watching the Justine Sacco Ted Talk put my stomach in a knot.  Once humor is reduced to just text in a tweet, being misinterpreted or taken out of context could end your career.  I believe this is truly the ugly side of social media as an unchecked mob now has the power to say or act on any information, true or not, and before anyone takes the time to sort fact from fiction, the damage is irreversible and will live forever online.

Social media is what we make it.  For better or worse, anyone can have their voice heard online and with the benefit of a large following or large group of like-minded individuals, your discourse can be magnified to a worldwide scale.  As we’ve seen, even with only a few followers or a few words, small thoughts can become big news.  This class highlighted the many ways that this can occur and reminded me that as a medium, social media is just a reflection of us and even after this course, the dialogue will continue.

5 comments

  1. viquezj · ·

    Great post! I agree completely that this class has allowed me to see the good, the bad, and the ugly on social media. Often times we simply stay in the “bubble” of the people that you are following who are for the most past friends and family so it is more difficult to have exposure to trolls or to tweets like the one posted on your blog. However, with the broad perspective of social media offered in this class, it becomes clear that there is still a long way to go to educate users on how to use social media properly, or even have social media platforms adopt strategies to clean their newsfeed from racist and offensive content.

  2. Really great way to sum up the class content! You made a fantastic point about the presentations; the personal connections made the material especially engaging in a practical sense. Additionally, I think the biggest mistake people can make when discussing social media, or technology in general for that matter, is to simply classify it as either good or bad. Interestingly, this actually parallels how divisive our political system is today, given how we tend to oversimplify complex issues. Not to get too political, but if people openly discussed the ups and downs of issues like we discussed the ups and downs of social media, I think we’d have a much less hostile political climate.

  3. I agree that the presentations were particularly strong this semester.

  4. terencenixdorf · ·

    Fantastic post, Chris. I think that you not only hit on everything, you made great points about everything. Going to class and being able to discuss current events that we all shared through Twitter was unlike anything I’ve experienced at Boston College. The Twitter discussions each week were among some of my favorite class moments ever. I, too, learned a lot about subject matter and people in the class from presentations/discussions. I think your points about the Bad & the Ugly can’t go unnoticed. Those downfalls of social media are huge problems and I hope there are ways to at least address them in the future. Thanks for sharing and thanks for your contributions in our small group all semester – it was great getting your opinion on things!

  5. isabel_calo1 · ·

    Great post! And thanks for pointing out that so much happens on social media everyday that we never noticed until we actually looked for them. So much has happened even this semester and it is hard to wrap it all into one category so I liked how you explained the good, bad, and ugly. Also it is so true that humor and intentions can get lost online, just like sarcasm over text doesnt work, some jokes just don’t fly on twitter.

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