Social Media: The Bad & The Ugly

Emily Moore, TUT01

Golumbia, David. Social Media Has Hijacked Our Brains and Threatens Global DemocracyMotherboard, 5 Jan 2018,  https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/bjy7ez/social-media-threatens-global-democracy 

This popular article from, Motherboard argues that there is a linkage between the rise of social media and a drop in the democratic public sphere. The social media revolution encourages its consumers to act on the emotional and irrational parts of the brain. However, in recent years this has become a method of redistributing power in politics, causing voters to participate in instinctive ways without thought reflection. This article posits social media is making us less democratic as a whole. The following article will provide useful in my podcast as I plan to pursue the way social media is affecting our society and/or making us less intellectual. This article has added to my understanding of ‘quick-fix’ culture and the ways in which this is transcending into other aspects of society. This article provides a well-rounded analysis of the topic through an analysis of material culture and the ways the human mind has been trained by large corporations to become reactive.

THE MAIN ARTICLE:

Singal, Jesse. Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Heres Exhibit A. The New York Times, 11 Jan 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/opinion/social-media-dumber-steven-pinker.html    

This popular article from The New York Times, is a response to the video that supposedly showed a Harvard Professor, Steven Pinker praising members of an alt-right racist movement where he calls them ‘internet and media savvy’. The accusations were taken deeply out of context from an eight-minute video, where Mr. Pinker was trying to convey, “the alt-right’s beliefs are false and illogical – but that the left needs to do a better job fighting against them.” What Pinker was trying to do was make an argument about political correctness, the alt-rights recruitment and how to learn to counter their bigoted ideas more effectively. The main takeaway here that I can use for my podcast is that it’s a near impossible task to state an opinion on controversial issues via social media without capturing the outrage of your followers – causing an internet battle comprised of reactivity and emotion. Not only does this tie to the subject of the other text but it provides itself as a useful case study as Mr. Pinker is a public intellectual who is well respected which will usefully contrast Trump.

Garbutt, Leo. “Social Media Is Changing the Way We Think.” Huff Post UK, 10 June 2014, www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/leo-garbutt/social-media-is-changing-the-way-we-think_b_5114137.html.

In his article, Leo Garbutt identifies the ways social media is used by its audience as a way to promote, market and organize online. This self-promotion indicates the dangers in our inability recognize the fine line between corporate marketing and self-promotion. Therefore, he argues that social media taints the way we would normally act, through our compulsion to ‘keep up with our online audience’. The main idea is that we gain satisfaction from an external source instead of enjoying the moment. This popular source is relevant to my argument in regards to social media as having an effect on behaviour. This source helps me to gain a deeper understanding of how influential social media is on an individual level and how it works to alter our habits/ thoughts. Social media works on a psychological level which is definitely something of interest that could be explored further.

Spencer, Keith A. “A Psychology Researcher Explains How Social Media Is Changing US.” Salon, 22 Jan. 2018, www.salon.com/2018/01/21/a-psychology-researcher-explains-how-social-media-is-changing-us/.

This article is an interview with Dr. Erin Vogel who is a post-doctorate psychology researcher at the University of California. The piece outlines that the internet is able to play with industrial psychology in order to hook in consumers and play on their interests. Dr. Vogel’s research largely centres on the belief that we filter ourselves through the image we portray, causing those who see it to have a temporarily worsened well-being and mood – the same goes for Facebook. Dr. Vogel’s research found that those who use social media with more frequency also have lowered self-esteem and/ or symptoms of depression. Vogel also eludes to studies which show those that spend a lot of time browsing the internet, follow up with feelings of emptiness, this is likely because we feel like we have wasted time. This source will provide useful in shaping the rationale behind why we feel a negative emotional response after social media use. I think it would be interesting to touch on this in my podcast as the emotional reactivity can be tallied at two different extremes (anger and sadness).

Davidson, Lauren. “Is Your Daily Social Media Usage Higher than Average?” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 17 May 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/11610959/Is-your-daily-social-media-usage-higher-than-average.html

This popular article from The Telegraph stresses the increasing amount of time we have spent online referring to 1 hour and 15 minutes in 2012, increasing to 1 hour and 40 minutes in 2015 – indicating the trend that we spend more and more time on social media as the years go by. Also a part of the study says that we are accessing one third of our social media via our smartphones of which we have 5 accounts on average. As noted in the article, Facebook is notably the largest online community, however YouTube is the most popular with millennials. YouTube is also ranked as being the coolest network by teenage consumers. This source proves useful in constructing my episode as it provides a study which suggests we are spending more and more time on the internet which I can use to exemplify how social media is in essence taking over the way we communicate/ intake information.  

Beckett, Lois. “Trump Digital Director Says Facebook Helped Win the White House.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 8 Oct, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/08/trump-digital-director-brad-parscale-facebook-advertising

This popular article from The Guardian speculates the role of Facebook in winning Trump the 2016 election – stating that Trumps digital advertising budget tested over 50,000 different ads each day as a method of micro-targeting voters. The article backs up the conspiracy saying that campaigns cannot hand pick Facebook team members to promote their platforms. However, a cause for concern in the article is the issue of micro-targeting voters through advertising differences made to appeal to separate states which was allegedly done in parts of Florida. Therefore, the Trump campaign has come under fire as using this promotion as a business strategy to skew the election. Whether the support Facebook provided to Trump was standard practice or not, the Clinton campaign was said not to accept any of Facebook’s offers. This can prove useful in my podcast to highlight the ways we are being manipulated and controlled through social media.

Ben-Zeʼev, Aharon., “Love Online: Emotions On the Internet” Emotions on the Net, Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004-01-19, 58-77. 

 This scholarly Chapter of Love Online: Emotions on the Internet describes how online presence is tied to our emotions and their mental processes. This chapter looks at how the vast variety of comparison alternatives on the internet impact our more vulnerable emotions related to: instability, intensity, etc. the use of available alternatives illustrates that the internet is an unstable environment. This source will be helpful because it illustrates that our emotions in cyberspace reflect our offline personas. Another point that I will use to strengthen my podcast is the notion of: less functional and rationality (in the context of online relationships) I believe this transcends its context and can speak in a broader sense as well.  

Patrut, Bogdan., Patrut, Monica. “Social Media in Politics: Case Studies on the Political Power of Social Media.” Facebook Use in the 2012 USA Presidential Campaign, Edited by: Patrut, Bogdan., Patrut, Monica, Springer, 2014, 1-11.

Chapter 11 of this scholarly article/ study focuses understanding how Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney used Facebook as a tactic to better interact with their audience at the time of their campaigns. The article breaks down Candidates social media posts into 3 main categories: promotion of a candidate, to attack a candidate or to contrast a candidate. The focus is further broken down by way of personal characteristics of the candidate and “policy matters”. This article will be useful for my podcast as it touches on the six emotional appeals needed to better attract, persuade/ dissuade and reach voters online. This will provide as a strong example how reliability on the ‘emotional’ internet space has ripple effects into our society

Kramer Adam D. I., Guillory Jamie E., Hancock  Jeffrey T., (June 2014) “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks”. PNAS, pg. 3-5. Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788

This week’s scholarly article attempts to prove (through experimental evidence) that emotional states can be transferred to via social media. This experience is not done through the awareness of the user. In addition, the article argues that residual emotions like depression and happiness can also be picked up from these outlets. This research posits that through withholding positive posts, people will posts more negatively through this exposure which proves a linkage on group emotion to the individual. This study will help my podcast prove the central question of, “is social media making us dumb?”. This study shows that we are simply not in control of our own emotions through social media consumption – which is an argument I think can help prove this question.

Thompson, Clive “Social Media: How Life Online Makes Us Smarter.” BBC Future, BBC, 9 June 2014, http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140608-how-social-media-makes-us-smarter

This popular video from BBC Future, speaks about “How life online makes us smarter”. This video and short article posit that the internet provides new opportunities for people to engage/ think in alternative social ways (via problem solving, rapport building, etc). Essentially social media communication is said to stray from the traditional individualist notion of creativity and breed a more social creativity. This resource will provide useful in my podcast to provide rebuttal/ show proof of the other sides argument. It will be important to touch on the argument that social media is making us smarter to create a less biased environment.

Andrew-Gee Eric. “Your Smartphone Is Making You Stupid, Antisocial and Unhealthy. So Why Can’t You Put It Down?” The Globe and Mail, 6 Jan. 2018, www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/your-smartphone-is-making-you-stupid/article37511900/ . Updated January 16 2018.

This popular article from, The Globe and Mail argues that there is a “growing body of scientific evidence that digital distraction is damaging our minds.” This article says that our access to smartphones, reshapes the way we navigate simple and complex problems via how we think, interact, navigate relationships, etc. The piece also touches on how smartphones effect our attention span, interfere with the notion of work-life balance and cause us to ignore our loved ones. Lastly, it states that social media can be as addictive as gambling and drugs (as it utilizes these same neural pathways – playing on the vulnerabilities of the human brain). This article will prove useful in my podcast as it presents that we cannot be immune to being made ‘dumb’ through social media. This suggests that society as a whole is cultivating a culture which is ‘dumbing down’ its populous.

Statistics Canada, “Individual Internet Use and E-Commerce, 2012.” The Daily, Statistics Canada, 28 Oct. 2013, www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/131028/dq131028a-eng.htm.

This statistical article outlines the various ways we use the internet, social media and how this correlates to products we buy online. This article reports on trends such as: increased internet usage, the digital divide, increasing online communication (using social media), etc. The stats in this document posit which metropolitan area has the largest social media usage, which gender uses social media more frequently, etc.  This resource may prove useful in showing how social media may sway us to buy products through micro-targeting (as defined in a previous article). This resource will also show the demographic of internet users – to which this podcast is also aimed at.

Miller, Daniel, et al. “Academic Studies of Social Media.” How the World Changed Social Media, 1st ed., vol. 1, UCL Press, London, 2016, pp. 9–24. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1g69z35.9.

This scholarly source examines the shift in the sociality of society through the medium of social media. This peer-reviewed source breaks down the differing outlets that have helped to pioneer modern age consumer media. Lastly, the source points out reasonable cultural tendencies that tend to be associated with social media. This source is helpful to my podcast as it argues that social media is associated with a certain type of narcissism that reads as very individualistic. It is also usefully noted that social media is linked with capitalist corporations which have sway in the types of neo-liberal values they choose to promote.

Canada, Government of Canada, Government Communications “Social Media and Web Requirements.”, modified 15 June 2017, https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/topics/government-communications/social-media-web-requirements.html

This Government of Canada source details an array of topics which outlines the rules the government must follow in managing, “websites and corporate social media accounts”. This source links relevant policy surrounding social media, types of social media use, the importance of standardized l layouts, etc. Overall this source exemplifies how these accounts are managed and how the information must be dispensed to the public. This source will prove useful in my podcast as it will highlight the lack of safeguarding regular individuals practice on social media. This source is also useful as it provides insight into policies and the roles/ responsibilities the government has on enacting them. Overall, this can largely engage/ counter my social media and politics vignette to create a more trustworthy dialogue.

 

Social Media: The Bad & The Ugly

Transcript

Welcome to this installment of A Matter of Opinion! My name is Emily Moore and you’re listening to Social Media: The Bad & The Ugly…

Every day on my commute to school I gaze curiously at people whose eyes are glued to their phones. Not, saying I am immune but I am interested in what has them so transfixed. According to the Telegraph, “the average person has five social media accounts and spends 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day,” But does it ever seem like the internet is an inherently negative space? Subtweets, twitter wars, likes/ dislikes, Facebook quarrels. It just seems to me that this space cannot emotionally regulate itself. More and more is it becoming the place that we first interact with and encounter our news. So in what ways does this medium infect our digestion and interpretation of current events? Think of Trump and his use of micro-targeting as Exhibit A. Therefore, I bring up the question, in what ways is social media provoking these negative behaviours?

            Let’s examine a more topical example from the New York Times from Jan 11th of this year. Jesse Singal wrote an article about Harvard Professor, Steven Pinker and his apparent complementary words towards alt-right racists calling them “internet and media savvy”. While, this story blew up on social media - stirring outrage - what the public didn’t know is they walked blindly into critiquing a segment from an 8-minute clip, taken deeply out of context. Instead, the intended message was “the alt-right’s beliefs are false and illogical – but that the left needs to do a better job fighting against them.” What Pinker was trying to do was make an argument about political correctness and how we need to learn to counter these bigoted ideas more effectively.

            The publics guttural reaction and highly reactive emotional response turned a simple speech into the demonization of a well-respected professor. In fact, the amount of traction and reactivity this story received was concerning. Does this mean that social media is making us dumber? Is social media somehow lowering our standards? In a way I definitely think so. Now that I have gotten you riled up, here’s what I plan to cover in this episode…

            This episode will touch on what it means to be a social media consumer, the ways we are being targeted and how social media is an inherently argumentative and emotional space. I plan to touch on how these guttural reactions transcend into governmental decision making and help to shape our ever-changing culture. The Presidential Election of 2016, psychological journals and popular articles will yield alternative perspectives on the issue. Ever wondered how social media is affecting you? You won’t want to miss this.

Works Referenced

Davidson, Lauren. “Is Your Daily Social Media Usage Higher than Average?” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 17 May 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/116            0959/Is-your-daily-social-media-usage-higher-than-average.htm

Singal, Jesse. Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Heres Exhibit A. The New York Times, 11 Jan 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/opinion/social-media-dumber-steven  pinker.html