That’s right, I’m going there. Before writing this final reflection, I went back to my first blog, and couldn’t help but laugh at/feel embarrassed by a post I had written only three months ago. I was definitely a little bit dramatic in calling the world of social media and digital business “The Jungle”, but it just feels right to go out the way I came in, so I’m going to say it as dramatically as possible: I hate social media.
Before I go on, I don’t want someone reading this to get the wrong idea. This is not me hopping on WordPress and bashing #IS6621 and my fellow tweeters and bloggers with a week to go and then riding off into some self-righteous sunset. This class has been great. I get why I was on a waiting list to get into it, and I really do think the course is probably amongst the most interesting BC has to offer, by nature of its unique structure and ever changing curriculum paralleling the constant innovations in our daily lives. But that doesn’t mean I think the innovations themselves are all that great. What I appreciate about this class is that even if I don’t like where the world of tech is taking us, at least my opinions are well informed enough to make a statement like that now.
I realized when I reread my first post that I could not have been speaking more in generalities about the tech industry. I had no idea what I was talking about. As this course comes to a close, I now realize that I know a lot less about the happenings of Silicon Valley than I thought I did when I started this class, and I’m grateful for that. There’s a lot of stuff being developed out there (here come the generalities again), the smartest people in the world are working on it, and I probably wouldn’t lump myself in as one of those people. However, I can certainly speak to what I do know about tech, based on Twitter activity, blog posts, lectures, readings, and videos from this semester, so that’s what I’m going to do.
Social media is an incredible tool when used correctly. If you don’t believe me, look no further than the Arab Spring between 2010 and 2012. But direct your focus to the latter half of that sentence, “when used correctly”. I don’t hate social media. That, like I said, was melodramatic. My qualm with social media lies not in its makeup, but in the way the majority of people, especially people our age, seem to have chosen to use it.
As I said in my first post, the way I have perceived social media for as long as it has existed leading up to this class is essentially as a time waster. It’s fine to use our phones to scroll through memes, instagram posts, and satirical tweets, but its very easy to allow yourself to let that become the primary use, and that bothers me. I don’t fault anyone for being that way, I know I can be. Humans feed off of social capital, and plenty of studies have been done that show that social media feeds us exactly what we think we need. But I think I’m getting a little off topic.
What this class has taught me is that social media and the technologies that surround it are what you make them, and its our job to keep our focus on using them as a tool rather than just a toy. I really appreciate the opportunity to have been able to sit down and blog about things that really do interest me, and in a constructive way. The point of social media, in my opinion, should be to spread new ideas and opinions, and reading all of your blog posts every week about things you’re passionate about hits the bullseye on that goal. I got to share with you my thoughts on internet politics, my struggles with airline customer service, and most recently my hopes and fears for the internet’s role in school shootings, and I thank everyone who took the time to listen and offer their own input and feedback. To me, that is what social media is all about, and it took me being forced into that environment to appreciate it.
But tech goes beyond social media, and my biggest takeaway from this class is our constant struggle with that “creepy/cool line”. The reason I fear for the future of tech is not that we might cross that creepy/cool line, but that we keep getting more and more liberal with where the line lies, and who were okay with using our information.
Maybe I’m just stuck in the past with a generation of people who are afraid of change, but if Google, Alexa, or Facebook have shown us anything of late, its that people don’t seem to care if private companies hang on to a whole lot of their information. I remember thinking it was weird to turn on read receipts or location sharing a few years ago, and then last year Uber made it mandatory to “Always” turn on location services in order to use the app, and I didn’t think twice about accepting, because I needed Uber. I have no problem with people who are willing to give up their information. My fear is that society is developing a dependance on technologies that require our data in order to work effectively, and that down the road it may not be an individual’s choice if they want to give up that data, because it will be an absolute necessity for the technology to function.
If you’ve stuck this post out this far, thank you. I fully acknowledge that I just shot a bunch of my ideas out there without any clear structure, so let me try to sum up what I’m trying to say:
My beef with social media and the technologies that support it have very little to do with the technologies and platforms themselves. For me, its all about how we are training ourselves to use them, and I think that based on current evidence the trajectory looks to be grim. I know this is a view that is more cynical than most, but I think it is important not to get lost in the wonderment of the technologies we are developing and forget to keep a little healthy skepticism about them. The way we choose to use the technology is completely in our hands, and if we continue to be constructive with our sharing of information (and throw some checks and balances in along the way) like we have been in this class, I have a lot of hope for the future of the digital age.
So cheers #IS6621, thank you for an awesome semester, and I hope that I can look back on this post one day and realize that I was being just as dramatic in my post today as I was in my first one three months ago.