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.
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.
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 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.