Social Media — A Hall of Mirrors
This week on Facebook: While my post last week implied that those advocates of digital freedom claimed to have clear missions about their defence of free speech or freedom of expression, any ethos of intent in their mission would seem to be lost in the public’s use of social media. The social media used by the public is rife with abusers¹ who believe that their anonymity coupled with their misconceptions about free speech or freedom of expression protects them. In an age of transparency, social media covers more than is even shown in the following ethnographic. The public’s social interaction on the internet² is mainly limited to those internet sites referred to in the prominent examples of social media and in adding comments to other media outlets when permitted to do so.
Sunday: Why do people write abuse on the internet? Because they can! — There are good reasons why people write anonymously, in particular a concern that if they express controversial views there could be repercussions in their workplaces (a not unjustified fear). One aspect of such transient societies is that the chance of stumbling upon the person you have wronged, or gaining a reputation by your behaviour, are small.
Monday: The Guardian analysed 75 million internet comments. What it found explains an entire culture war. — The Guardian’s conclusion to essentially “just keep blocking” the worst offenders falls short. Not only is such a stance unlikely to effect meaningful change across the larger internet, but it doesn’t consider the many factors that makes it ineffective.
Tuesday: There Is A Very Fine Line Of Separation Between The Use & Abuse Of Social Media — Many times topics are blown out of proportion and conversations are pulled out of context. Once something is out in the virtual world, it’s very hard to pull it back. This tips the scale and begs the question: ‘Is social media too free?’
Wednesday: Addicted to social media? Try an e-fasting plan — Spending excessive time, often repeatedly and aimlessly, on social media can be called an addiction. In fact, social media could even be seen to have become a national obsession and Australians appear to be addicted. This addiction is not limited to Australia but spans the globe.
Thursday: Is social media making people depressed? — At its best, social media allows us to connect and keep up with friends and people we don’t see very often. It allows us to have short interactions with them that keep the relationships going when we don’t have much free time. At its worst, social media can, it seems, feed into feelings of inadequacy.
Friday: Are Social Networking Sites Good for Our Society? — I despise Facebook. Why on God’s earth would I need a computer to connect with the people around me? Why should my relationships be mediated through the imagination of a bunch of supergeeks in California? What was wrong with the pub? [Tom Hodgkinson — 2008 article titled “With Friends Like These…,” published in The Guardian]
The thing users of social media find wrong with the pub, especially the abusers, is that you have to assume direct responsibility for any remarks that you may make and for the consequences of any response to them. Face to face interactions lack anonymity, unlike the internet. As the article on Sunday pointed out, an aspect of societies as transient as those on the internet, is that the chance of stumbling upon the person wronged or of gaining a bad reputation are small. Monday’s posting opined that all of this is part of a much larger conversation about how we compel a nicer and less sexist, racist, and queer phobic internet while still maintaining free speech and allowing for difference of opinions. I wonder how we compel a nicer use of social media by the public without curtailing free speech or freedom of expression?
¹Digital Media and Everyday Abuse (preview)
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