Final Thoughts on a Thought Provoking Class

When I first signed up for this course and realized that it would entail blogging/tweeting publicly throughout the semester, I was a bit pessimistic if 1) I’d be comfortable sharing my thoughts with the “entire world” 2) if I’d be able to come up with enough ideas to share for 14 weeks.   I didn’t realize how wrong I would  be.

Every class I’ve attended has had a stimulating discussion on the role technology has played in our lives and what role it might play in the future.  But rather than a purely speculative analysis on the future, this class has taken an objective and analytical approach to what the future looks like.

Technology shaping our Economy

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For example, when we discuss self-driving cars, we don’t just discuss the novelty of not having to grab the steering wheel while driving, we discuss the implications of cities and towns, the implications for public transportation systems, the jobs impact, being able to do work while driving, etc.

We discussed in detail which jobs have the highest likelihood of becoming automated in the future and while I had always thought of certain more routine jobs as being likely, the class discussion really opened my eyes to just how high that number could be.

Ratings Become Mainstream

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Our class discussion on the importance of rating was a very fascinating conversation.  We discussed how Uber/AirBnB’s importance on the rating of both consumer and provider was a fascinating way to allow both sides to get a sense of what they are working with.  The consumer is assured that the provider will be seeking to keep their high rating while the provider can also gain a signal as to whether the consumer is “worth the trouble” or “will leave a tip”.   Initially I was uncomfortable with the notion that Uber/Lyft drivers will only rate a consumer a “5” if they leave a tip, but we discussed that this is simply the defining characteristic that a driver is interested in for a user, so this could mean that this is the difference between a rider accepting a call (in exchange for a likelihood of getting a bigger tip) or signing off for the night.

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For AirBnB, we discussed how important a user’s experience is and if the venue provider does not make things right, AirBnB will step in and pay out of pocket to make things right because they want to build that trust with you.  If you have a bad experience, it doesn’t matter that it does the specific venue’s fault, you’ll blame AirBnB and avoid it going forward.

We also discussed how ratings can become skewed, both in class and also via the class presentations.  A rating system for the world can turn grim very quickly, due to the downside of social media that we’ve discussed.  For product ratings, it becomes very difficult to determine what the true score is as we oftentimes rate things either zero wen they’re an absolute disaster or five when things go perfectly, with everything in between very difficult to determine.  As we discussed with Amazon, these ratings can become more challenging when we are given free/discounted products in exchange for “honest testimony”.  Honest testimony may not always be honest when money is exchanged.

Final Thoughts on Social Media

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We started the semester off by discussing the impact social media has had on things such as airline mishaps and how it initially took six months for an airline to apologize for an incident such as waiting on the tarmac for hours on end to today where all it takes is a tweet or a video to make change happen quickly.  This was a theme that was touched on nearly every week this semester.  From airlines dragging doctors off planes to beverage companies solving all of our issues with a can of soda, the impact social media has had on marketing and branding is enormous.  Companies have had to adjust how they view themselves and ensure that they are quick and adaptive to respond nimbly and quickly to current events.

Social Media has allowed me to connect with friends and family who I don’t normally see as they live across the globe, but at the same time, I fear that because I’m able to follow them on my own, I resist the urge to give them a call to check in on them, because I already know what’s new and exciting in their lives based on what they regularly post.

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But one important aspect that I’m sure we will discuss in class on Wednesday is the level of anxiety and angst we can sometimes get on social media.  It’s very easy to get caught up in what we see our friends and family posting and sharing on social media and sometimes I believe it causes undue stress/anxiety in our culture’s “FOMO” and “Keeping up with the Joneses” social scene.

When I’m occasionally sitting at home on a Friday night because I’m exhausted from work and just want to take a night off, I feel pangs of mini-guilt sometimes looking through Facebook and seeing my friends out and about.  This happens despite the fact that when I see those SAME friends a week or two later, we laugh about how we like to have low key Friday nights to recharge every now and then.  Or when another friend takes an extravagant and incredible vacation and I’m in the office on a random Tuesday, I’ll feel so bummed that I’m not traveling around the Italian Riviera despite the fact that I just got back from vacation not 5 weeks ago.   Of course these feelings are fleeting and I’m back to my normal state of happiness very soon after, but it does make you wonder if there are downsides to social media.

I believe social media has a very important role in society and has revolutionized the way we communicate and interact, but with anything in life I believe there should be moderation.  Rather than having communication based solely on posts, tweets, snaps, texts, or messages, perhaps consider adding in some of the more “traditional” means of communication: phone calls and, of course, good old-fashioned in-person interactions…with the phone securely in your pocket.  It’s something I have to practice more and more because as I get more immersed in social media, it gets more difficult to unplug even for short periods of time.

Social media is not completely evil, but it’s not inherently benevolent either.  But at the end of the day, I’m grateful for taking this class to recognize the great power that social media has in our culture, and (of course you know where this is going), “with great power comes great responsibility”.

Thank you all for reading this semester, I know I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of your posts as well!

 

4 comments

  1. This was a really well-written final post! It is clear that you spent a good amount of time reflecting on this class and its lessons. I also loved our class discussion about driverless cars, as there really are a whole range of implications that aren’t obvious the first time thinking about it. Additionally, I agree that social media really does put more pressure on companies when they have a PR screwup – the stakes are much higher in the age of Twitter. Hopefully this means all companies will be held to a higher standard going forwards! Thanks for this post and for a semester of other neat blogs!

  2. talkingtroy · ·

    I think you are right for learning to disconnect and embrace the silence. I think the pace of the world has only seemed to speed up and trying to keep up with everything and everyone online can be exhausting. I think people try to represent a much “cooler” version of themselves online when often they would rather netflix on a Friday night. Just don’t let social media fill in for actual time with people who matter.

  3. Such a great final post. I too was skeptical of posting publicly each week, but I’m so glad I kept up with it because it’s been so fascinating reading everyone’s blogs and hearing people’s opinions on social media. I agree with you that sometimes it is nice to unplug from social media–I’m known as the friend who is bad with my phone, but I take it as a compliment because I’m not constantly checking my text messages and social media pages everyday. I do think it is still great to be able to connect with distant family and friends like you mentioned, even if we should still pick up the phone to talk in person sometimes. Thanks for your great insights and presentation which helped me understand social media outside the U.S!

  4. cjprall · ·

    Really nice post. Ratings and reviews definitely weren’t what I expected to have spent a lot of time talking about in a social media class but the more examples we read about, the more I realized that online reputation is so vital on the Internet in many different ways. Establishing trust online is hard to do, but the more people that participate and can attest to a product’s quality, or a driver’s professionalism, or an Airbnb condo the more we will come to trust paying a stranger to make it happen, and reading your post made me realize that this class really opened my eyes to that.

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