I have never written a blog post so bear with me this one is going to be rough. Given that these blog posts 45% of our grade, it is definitely the first thing I want to improve on in this course. However, to get an easy A was not the reason I decided to take this course (and after the first class I am entirely sure I will not be receiving one). I decided to take this course mainly learn how to use social media in an actually constructive way. I for one, I am the girl who jokingly makes my Facebook profile picture a photo of me wearing a bike helmet and then leaves that picture up for a year. I am also the girl who uses Facebook predominantly to watch Tasty videos and videos of dogs for hours. Additionally, most of the accounts I follow on Instagram are meme accounts. So basically, my social media use falls under the what Clay Shirky would call “the stupidest possible creative act” (Cognitive Surplus, 18).
Therefore, I want to learn how to use social media as a tool create and share content in a way to benefit society. Because while I use social media as a comical outlet, for others it is the only source to get authentic news about what is really happening in their country, such as all my family in Venezuela. For those of you who do not know Venezuela is in crisis. The country—which use to be once one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries—is watching its democratic institutions crumble, suffering from unprecedented inflation, widespread food and supply shortages, violent protests, and exorbitant levels of hunger and disease. Currently, President Maduro is attempting to push for a new constitution which will essentially install a Cuban-style communist autocracy.
(For more info on Venezuela watch this video)
Over the past couple of years, the government has taken control of the television, radio, and some of the written press. These traditional media outlets are heavily censored thus, there is very little converge of the protest and when it is discussed it defending Maduro’s regime and putting all the blame on the protesters. Consequently, Venezuelans have turned to social media to access information about what is happening in their country. Platforms like Twitter and WhatsApp have been the counties main source of news; however, these channels are also at risk. The government has detained hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders, and those who have spoken out against the government. Moreover, if President Maduro gets the new constitutional assembly passed the government will begin regulating social media and go after those individuals who criticize Maduro.
So, when I am searching my feed for memes, while my father is searching for how many of his people died in the protests that day and whether his family and friends are safe; I am embarrassed to use such a powerful world connecting tool in such a vain manner. Hence, I want to acquire the skills to utilize this new digital media in ways that can enhance civilization. Not that I am going to stop looking at memes, but try to help other people too. #Menandwomenforothers
In contrast, I also find it interesting the ways that social media can disrupt and be a burden in our lives. If you go out to a restaurant it is hard to find a table without at least one person on their phone. When we do not have our phones on our current person we have a mini heart attack. It is like society does not know how to exist without a smart phone and they have only been around for ten years.
I find our reliance on phones and social media especially a bit disturbing, but I cannot seem to quit it. Every summer I say that I am going to go a month with a phone, but I always find an excuse not to. My justifications are things like my parents would freak out if they couldn’t contact me (which is true). Or I cannot go a whole month without being in a group text because I would never know what is going on or get to hang out with my friends. I still consider these reasons valid but I cannot even bring myself to just quit even one of my frequent social media sites. I can’t quit Facebook because that is how I find out about most social events, can’t quit Instagram because everyone I know has an Instagram (also memes), I can’t quit Snapchat because that is how I communicate with most of my friends, and now I can’t quit Twitter because my grade depends on it. It is like I have FOMO from social media.
I think my FOMO without social media arises from what Clay Shirky, in Cognitive Surplus, reasoned was the job that we were hiring TV for to make us feel connected, engaged, and less lonely. However, now that the ability too not only consume but to also produce and share we cannot get enough and are unable/unwilling to break free from the cycle.