The Facebook Conundrum

With the whole world learning more and more everyday about the new technology that we discovered during our youth like social medias, we (the youth) are not all alone anymore to appreciate the usage of sites like Facebook. Before, the older generation didn’t understand things like this, even after knowing of their existence it took a while before people truly started to pay attention. That is until they discovered it and realised it’s potential. The problem is that not everyone will see it in the same way and the main problem that has arisen in the last couple of years is the one of privacy. Back when these were new, it was just us using it and people didn’t really pay attention to it. We shared our information not caring about who could see it and not aware of what could be done with it.

In the article “The Facebook Conundrum”, journalists are facing the issue of whether or not to use information from a woman’s Facebook account for an article they are writing. The online news site to which the journalist report to is based on close relation to its clients and a sincere trust between them. Therefore they prefer to keep this quiet and anonymous in order for the women to be safe and for her privacy to be kept. The problem nowadays is that people don’t realise that privacy on the internet isn’t real. The might have a private account where only friends can see their information but what they don’t realise is first of all how thin these barriers are, and how nothing can really be protected online. With the world learning about NSA, CIA’s and most governments control and surveillance of everyones online activity, people are starting to realise that giving out important information about yourself online can be very harmful. But going back to the journalist, they raise the question of the ethical aspect of using peoples information. Thanks to the Time’s and Dow Jones & Co.’s guidelines for using social media, reporters now have a better idea of what to do with certain information. The example of The Independent’s very anonymous way of acting and the discreteness used when delivering the information, choosing it’s release depending on current situation and thinking through the possible side effects, is a great example for the rest and hopefully will help create a more ethical use of “private” online information.


The Benefits of Facebook “Friends”

In the article the results show that the ability for people to keep contact with their friends from school and college is one of the greatest builder of social capital. I think that one thing that needs to be looked at more closely in Facebook is the newsfeed and the ability to create discussion groups to talk about important matter or share things. The newsfeed is something everyone goes through and it allows you to see what everyone is up too and see what kind of things people are interested too, what they like, how they react to certain things. This allows to create very rapid connections between people and it allows to tell what kind of person they are. This I think, even with this problematic of image management, too create real bridges by allowing you too learn a lot about your friends and people you might not be able to see often. The groups are also interesting, for example I have several friends groups on Facebook where we share music, each group is with different people and style of music but usually of a small number in order not to have an overflow. Through this we learn a lot about the others and we manage to create connections through the music and our understanding of their messages. We create real bonds even with new members by the simple fact of appreciating a song. Following certain magazines and sites on Facebook is also very useful. I now get a lot of my information through it being on Facebook regularly. All these things bring immense social capital I think and are helping certain people to cultivate themselves and learn about what is going on with people they know all over the world, our social capital is definitely growing.  

The Spiral of Silence

The spiral of silence theory talks about how strong public opinions can make certain people shy and unfree to speak their opposed opinion because they are afraid to be put down by the majority. Even though this theory is complicated and it’s limits are hard to distinguish, I believe it can be applied to many situations, and particularly the one popularity and opinion giving within schools. Back in my school, many subjects were discussed and many opinions were given out thanks to the internationality of the students. This allowed to have many opinions without having someone put down and thrown into silence spirals. But as always there are things that are bigger than a school and certain topics were giving out your public opinion without analysing the demographic of opinions can be bad for your social status. Because in schools public opinions are what gives you your popularity. If you have a lot of power you don’t risk to be put to silence but the more the popular kids have power the more they will push down those who don’t. If you look at a stereotypical american school, you will see that a lot of kids are very quiet and perhaps stuck in a spiral of silence because of the pressure put on by the ones who aren’t. There is a lot of hate and rejection in these schools, rejection being the primary reason for silence. Kids want to be popular and therefore are scared to speak up because of the risk it is within their social group. But these are exaggerations, in my school, few students were locked in spirals this way because people were nice and popularity was a lot more levelled out. A good example of the public opinion we had though, which caused certain kids to go very silent was the war in the middle east. Having a lot of americans in the school (and very patriotic ones), the public opinion was very strong towards the war. But there were a couple of students, who didn’t agree. This being shortly after the attacks on the 9/11, the american students got into serious arguments with the few opposing ones. This caused a serious trouble because they took it to far and after insults and small fights the school came into action and sanctioned them. But the opposing students quickly went quiet seeing the backfire of their arguments and most of them stayed very quiet publicly for a couple of weeks afterwards. Some of these kids almost never talked to each other during the following year after this incident. I think this could fit within the spiral of silence theory even though it’s a small isolated example. 

Agenda Setting

In this research done on agenda setting, the same question seems to still arise. Does the media set the public agenda or does the public agenda set the media agenda. This is very interesting even more nowadays, because now there is so many ways to share information at such speed and with so many aspects that the rules aren’t the same. I think that first of all, more and more people are affected by the media agenda because it has such a wide spread, but it also arises more opinions and conversations, allowing the spread of more information. But one of the main things that change is the way media set their agenda. When looking back at the period during which these theories were written, not many people had the power to affect the media agenda, because they didn’t have access that much information and they didn’t have ways to share it, except their friends, meaning that managing to reach the media would mean having certain connections, or being famous and thus having power of the media. The thing is that now, everyone can talk about something and easily attract a lot of attention by sharing it on the net, and more and more people are gaining power and therefore gaining a voice and people that will follow. The media also has opinion leaders to look at, from which they can set agendas very easily. The new media has also allowed to look at peoples preferences and automatically direct them to information they might be interested in, this shows that more and more agendas are being controlled and people are categorised. I think that soon their won’t be the need for media to look at who might want what because they will know through patterns where and who to display certain information. This is the rise of a new way to look at information and a better way to share it, but who will control who? 

Chapter 8: Changing Times

Mass Society Theory which was discussed in chapter 3 of the Baran & Davis book, talked about seeing the rise of all this technology during our century as problematic, especially towards the effect it could have on social changes and new ways for us to function in society. They thought that mass culture would undermine social order and create chaos. And they were probably right during a certain amount of time because of the power medias had in the 20th century. Communism and Fascism were giving great help by these medias because they new how to control and handle them in a time were not much people did and were mass media didn’t allow any interaction or platform or even any choice. Through the years this technology evolved and a more individualist ad democratic media world was created during the last 20 years and we now how all these tools that allow us to instantly pass on information. I think that at the time in which these theorists were afraid they had a reason to be. They were living in dark times, at the dawn of a new world, and they were scared, this was something new on which they couldn’t possibly get their full grasp on. I think that now, there is so much space, so many opinions, so much choice that one individual cannot have so much power. Nowadays more and more people are able to speak their mind and share their ideas. So we have slowly sunk into the individualist aspect of media effect and therefore into microscopic theories.  This is what is really a concern nowadays, how each person is affected personally. What their own socio-cultural media bubble is doing to them and their opinions is now more of a concern. 

Uses & gratifications

The uses and gratifications model is based on the idea that we use the media for individual needs, which i found to be very true. Something that I found very interesting is the fact that people and kids do a lot of things in order the gain the attention of other people, to receive gratifications from social groups, friends and people they want to impress. This is something we all do and i could easily relate it to my personal experiences, like for example when I was a kid, always trying to get the next cool thing on the market or watching certain types of movies.  This model is based on “personal needs”, even though they aren’t always personal, they could be something from your social group that they wanted you to see and they aren’t especially needs because sometimes you just sit down and turn on the Tv. This comes back to the two headings S. Finn was talking about. The passive way of using media, without any needs but just because it is there o because we are bored. This could also be described as a ritualised media use which itself relates to Escapism. These are I think one of the main focus of todays media use by the youth. More and more they watch things to pass time and escape from reality, for sole purpose of being entertained, which is the opposite of what I was relating to during my youth. Here they are (and I am too) just trying to put everything aside, it’s not about anyone else but themselves, it’s something very personal and it is a world in which they like to lock themselves in, their virtual fantasy. I think this is having big impact on people because back then we couldn’t do this. People didn’t have as much media as we do and were not able to go through it like we do. If I am bored, i’ll get on my computer and stream a Tv show maybe, in a couple of clicks. I think this is were this model is very useful and important to take in account, especially for the future patterns.  

Buzz, Word of mouth and 2 step flow

Following up on my last blog about the adaption of two step flow within schools and between kids below 18, I want talk about the word of mouth effect and 2 step flow, and how they lead to creating a buzz or something cool. 

Something that is cool or that is a buzz, is something that is being considered fun and new, and that socially empowers the one that uses it or puts it in display for the others. Kids at school are always trying to be cooler and to be more popular, that is why they create buzz’s and other group followed actions. They, and I too, are looking for things that will make people laugh, like the americans throwing jokes during our general meetings. People that were good at this were mostly the popular kids and opinions leaders, because they knew about things before everyone or learned about information we don’t have access too because of their own personal relations outside of school. Through word of mouth, they send that information to their followers and create new trends. But it isn’t always about these opinion leaders, sometimes someone just has a great idea or discovery and through the new media shares it with all his friends accelerating the buzz even more, even though opinion leaders point of view are still crucial. Word of mouth is i think not really the most effective anymore because people don’t need to talk about it, they just need to click and read or watch and then share for everyone to see. So in order to create a real buzz today, not much is necessary but a good product well placed within the small opinion leaders within a school for example could make any advertising campaign look completely useless.