How #SUSocialDemocracy see's social media as a space to save face.
The digital universe is a place for communities to grow across time zones, demographics and geographical locations. Social media platforms enhance this with the instant gratification of the Twitterverse, something we millennials love, and foster interactions, something humans all crave.
Yesterday, I was privy to hear a few speakers that really affirmed some notions regarding social media that I had previously caught on to. Dwight DeWerth-Pallmeyer, Biko Mandela Gray and Tia C.M. Tyree are three academics with great insight on how social media platforms are being used to benefit and prohibit communities. Activism in the Digital Age allowed for a forum of honesty, something social media platforms have in common. The prime difference here is that this forum dealt with face-to-face interaction, a conversation between people with varying opinions but with the ability to be open to hearing alternate storylines and perspectives with respect. Social media does not encourage this.
Free is always attractive to consumers, and social media platforms are based on the idea of sharing information freely and voicing opinions in an easily accessible and portable way. DeWorth-Pallmeyer said “the problem with social media is people don’t use it for depth, they use it to reinforce their point-of-view”. This can be seen frequently with POTUS tweets that lack depth but reinforce the position at the top of the information food-chain. And, while the increase in accessibility to information has grown through the advancements in technology, cell phones have seriously lowered our thought and creative processes, encouraging us to use the technology to search for answers rather than coming to conclusions based on additional readings.
The major problem with social media, as Dr Tyree said, is that there is no one entity to monitor the endless data streams going through each of these platforms. Mediator, Gina Luttrell, added that “the screen allows us to be someone else,” allowing the anonymity of the Internet to act as a cover against confrontation. In turn, this also means that reserved personalities can join social movements when factors may have prevented them from participating physically. In this sense, social media is a brilliant platform that encourages individuals to participate in group forums and find communities of like-minded people.
Let’s not ignore the troll in the room, the negativity surrounding anonymity is primarily associated with Internet trolls, those people who use the virtual community as a cover for their disruption of community. These individuals fail to add to the networking abilities of social media, and tend to seek to disrupt safe spaces by interjecting their negative outlooks and opinions in a manner that does not promote constructive conversation or the ability to listen and respect alternate perspectives or opinions. Trolling is a prominent issue on social media, and no matter if the content is beauty or politics, you better believe there will be plenty of trolls ready to ruin the day with negative commentary. Unfortunately, this reality is common for social influencers, even people with minimal influential circles are subject to being trolled.
In situations where social activism is taking place on social media platforms, what do the key public’s do to promote and protect their voices? Fight back against the trolls, and be prepared to enlighten, not just engage. Dr Gray spent some time visiting key public’s in the forum yesterday, questioning who felt silenced and what reasoning may be behind it. “Are people being silenced?” He asked, “Yes but it’s not the people we say are being silenced.” The argument tends to lead toward two avenues, silenced voices seeking to be heard and people who claim they are being silenced when the normativity of their contributions are in question. One group is suppressed while the other is actively seeking to suppress the other.
How would you handle problems of anonymity in social media platforms? While I currently identify these two primary groups, I am open to the possibility that I am missing key public’s and would love to hear your thoughts.