#10: Social Media

Social media now has millions of users worldwide. There are blogs, social network sites, podcasts, discussion forums, video and photo sharing sites, wikis, and even product review social media sites. Youtube dominates as the #1 social media site with Facebook as the #1 site for time spent.

I grew up and saw social media rise and die. I used Myspace back when it was super popular then moved on to Facebook once it became clear Myspace was dead. Instagram and Twitter came next and eventually Snapchat. I’ve had Tumblr, Pinterest, Youtube, Linkedin, and Hi5 accounts.

Now, my time is mostly spent between Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. I also use Youtube but mostly to watch videos and not to socialize. I use all of these in different ways. Facebook is mostly to get updates on news, stay connected to family, and keep track of events happening around me. Snapchat and Instagram are apps that I use to stay connected with friends and post more freely on.

Since starting college, however, I have begun to cut back on my social media use. Now that classes, homework, and extracurriculars take up more of my time, I don’t have as much leisure time to dedicate to social media. I uninstall everything except Facebook and Snapchat and messaging apps during the semester so that I don’t waste time.

When I was in high school, I had a lot of leisure time to browse Tumblr and Pinterest. Now those accounts sit untouched. I only use Twitter during breaks. The reason why I cut back is because more is at stake than before. I have more responsibilities and my grades are more important than ever. With the increasing spotlight on privacy issues, I also don’t want to put more personal information out there since I don’t always know where it’s going or who can see it.

In many aspects, social media enhances my relationships with people. I’m better able to find things we have in common and stay updated on people’s lives. I’m not the best at maintaining contact but social media lets me stay aware of my friends and family and know how they’re doing. I don’t necessarily think it gives more relationships with less quality depending on the type of person you are. I tend to only accept people I know but some people try to expand their networks as much as they can. In that case, it can lead to shallower relationships. The quality of relationships depend on more than social media interactions.

Although most people would agree that social media is a way to improve interpersonal human communications, it can also be used for awful things. Cyberbullying can have real-life effects and even lead to suicide. As we discussed earlier in the semester, social media is a form of disembodied communication and people type things they wouldn’t say  in person.

Another way social media can be harmful is when fake news or rumors are spread. Increasingly, fake news has risen as people become more polarized on issues. People become more inclined to believe fake news and don’t think critically.

There is no grand solution to these issues as the Internet is a complex thing to regulate. However, a way to combat cyberbullying is by taking it seriously and believing people when it happens. By trivializing cyberbullying, affected people are less likely to report it and this enables perpetrators. Educating children in school is another good way to combat cyberbullying as well as having real-life consequences for perpetrators. Legislation would be a good avenue of change.

Additionally, if traditional news reporters and journalists were more inclined to criticize and call out fake news, it would help the masses be able to think critically and spot fake news. Currently, reporters entertain the idea that fake news could be real news and spend a lot of time debating whether or not they’re true. With a change in the way the media handles news, this could influence the way people think about information on social media. As always, education plays an important role in equipping people with the necessary tools to recognize the legitimacy of information.

Social media is another commtech that seems far from phasing out. Although individual sites may soon decline – Twitter – the prevalence of social media in our society seems to indicate that it is far from going the way of the VCR. Individuals may choose to disconnect but for each of those gone, there are much more to take their place.

(Next blog I will disconnect from the grid and see how it goes. Here’s another Parks and Rec clip to commemorate.)



#9: Privacy

Just last week, congress overturned a regulation that would have required Internet service providers such as Comcast, Verizon, and Charter to get consumer’s permission before selling their data.

I became increasingly concerned about my own privacy once I was a senior in high school. As I kept getting e-mails from services I didn’t remember signing up for, I realized that my younger self had quite recklessly put my information out there.

I came across an info-graphic that detailed how to find your information and delete it from various sites. I tried to follow the instructions and delete some old accounts but the more I tried the more sites I encountered. One of the things I remember the most is the graphic saying that it was nearly impossible to delete all your information from LinkedIn. I resisted signing up for it until I came to college and was told multiple times that it was necessary to have an account to be successful.

In the wake of congress’ decision, I’ve thought about using a VPN service. I worry most for my financial information now that I am more independent of my parents. Identity theft is scary.

When I use social media, I try to be cognizant of the information I put out. I am a private person naturally so it translates over to social media. I especially try not to share any familial information for their safety.

I don’t think about privacy implications all the time but it makes sense to not put my entire routine on display. It’s also really annoying when people post every detail of their lives.

People don’t realize the danger there is in posting every bit of information about yourself. We have no idea where the information goes. We should be very concerned about the implications of telling the world everything about ourselves and family.

People regularly get their information stolen. Sometimes people use others’ pictures to pose as them (catfishing). Beyond invasion of privacy, there is a more insidious consequence of having our information sold to the highest bidder. It could impact our ability to get healthcare because companies could see if you have a preexisting condition. Servers are always vulnerable to attacks and the possibility of our personal information falling into the wrong hands is alarming.

With the government encroaching more and more on our personal lives, it’s more crucial than ever that there be protections for citizens/consumers. We also have to be aware of the consequences of making our lives available to the public. “Big Brother” is around us more than ever before and now we have to protect our information the best that we can while we still can.

#5: A Blog About Blogging

Blogging has become a popular way of communicating over the past decade. It even has spawned a hybrid genre of “vlogging” which many people have taken to in order to expand their reach. People of all age groups from all over the world can blog and see others blog.

Personally, I think blogging is a valuable source of information depending on content. I enjoy reading travel blogs because it is an opportunity to read about an honest experience vs reading from a tourism website. I started blogging last semester and I find it enjoyable even if I don’t have a wide reach.

A lot of blogs provide information on improving one’s lifestyle or focus on reviewing a wide array of things. Tumbr is an example of how popular blogging can be, especially among millennials. Blogging has had an impact on society in regards to the way information spreads. Journalists and professional reviewers have slightly more competition. People don’t have to write a letter to the editor in order to share their opinions. Blogging even impacts the way people make money. Now, popular blogs can get ad revenue or endorsements. Many people have made careers out of endorsing and reviewing products. I expect the practice to remain steady with more people favoring vlogging since it has more revenue streams and popularity.

However, in many cases these platforms can become cyber-cesspools which Ronak Patel describes as “websites, blogs, and social networking sites frequently used to demean other people.” It is true that Internet sites have evolved into forums for posting rumors and/or hate speech about individuals and sometimes entire groups of people.

Although blogging has provided some benefits, there is a danger in giving everyone the “power to publish.” The book review mentions that all the authors in Part II came to the consensus that in the era of the Internet it is easy to spread false rumors. This is painfully topical given the election where fake news was all over the Internet.

It is especially dangerous when you have a large portion of the population that cannot discern fake news from real news. A well-educated population would not have such a problem but given the lack of critical thinking, false rumors can have dangerous results. People also have confirmation bias where they will interpret new evidence as confirmation of preexisting biases, beliefs, and theories.

Regulating hate speech on the Internet is especially tricky. The Internet has less regulation compared to other media, at least in the United States this is true. The Supreme Court has extended First Amendment protections to the Internet which makes it difficult to legally prosecute someone. However, people have taken justice into their own hands by boycotting events, products, companies, etc or calling the attention of employers.

Still, hate forums are a danger especially to minority groups. Many women receive hateful threats when they voice an opinion and hate groups have even gone as far as spreading personal information. This provides an extra layer of danger since personal information can result in a physical attack.

It is good for people to have the freedom to express their opinions. However, there is no protection on other people’s freedom to call you out when it disrespects or attacks another person’s existence. The spread of fake news blogs highlights the need for better education and critical thinking skills. Of course, it also shows the need for basic human decency.



#4: The Future of TV

Millions of people tuned in last Sunday to watch the Super Bowl. Some for the actual game, some for the halftime show and some for the commercials. It’s repeatedly the most watched TV broadcast of the year. And also the most expensive. A 30-second ad went for fifty million dollars this year. But there is no shortage of companies who will pay to have their ad featured.

Why is that?

Social Learning Theory could help explain such a phenomenon. Advertisers know that people learn by modelling the behavior of others. We operate in a culture of consumption and companies are ready to spend millions in order to be featured on TV.

If we learn by modelling others, why not use TV? After all, television is the most used communication technology in the United States.

One of the greatest tools of socialization has been the television. Since its inception, people have used it for specific agendas. Political leaders have used it for propaganda in order to rally support for wars and policies. Companies use TV to get us to buy their products or use their services.

Television programming evokes responses from audiences in many ways. A great TV show can spur sentiments stronger than patriotism for the story and its characters. A show can create an entire empire by selling its merchandise. TV ads can stir controversy and spur nationwide boycotts.

Celebrity endorsements are another example of the power of social learning theory. If a respected celebrity with a large following endorses a product, subtly or covertly, sales usually increase. The more people like a celebrity, the more in-demand that person is.

We learn by watching others.

Even if we were to take the programming aspect of TV out, the physical object itself still influences our decisions. If someone you know buys the newest Samsung TV with the curved screen you might be inclined to purchase one yourself (once the price goes down, of course). TV gadgets like TiVo can initially encounter hesitation but once people see their friends using it and enjoying it, people gain the desire to own it too.

Back to programming, social learning theory works here too. A lot of new shows gain popularity through word-of-mouth. This is especially true of shows that don’t broadcast through traditional networks. I started watching Stranger Things because my friends kept telling me how amazing it was. Orange is the New Black, Mozart in the Jungle, and Narcos have become hits despite not airing on traditional networks.

There has also been a switching of conduits. Once a TV show has gathered a following on traditional broadcast but for some reason has been cancelled, on-demand services like Netflix pick them up. For example – Black Mirror. It originally aired on the British Channel 4 but was then taken over by Netflix. The show got an even larger following once American audiences began to watch it and tell their friends. This is also true of Breaking Bad which became a hit in the UK once it was uploaded to Netflix.

With services like Netflix and Amazon, television reaches even larger audiences giving producers more people to socialize. A dark aspect of social learning theory is that media can often reinforce negative stereotypes in regards to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on.

People learn about others by watching TV. Millions of people get information via news channels and as much as audiences like to think that they are receiving unbiased news – they’re not. Television news stations continue to shape the way we view the world which can sometimes lead to  a type of mean world syndrome where people believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is.

Politicians use this to their advantage, utilizing fear as a tool to push their agendas. One of the downsides of social learning is that technology like television can be used to dehumanize certain groups. People watch and emulate others, sustaining the status quo.

Because TV is such a powerful tool of socialization, there is no decline in its horizon. Television is the most used commtech and is the second most owned. Whether it will oust radio in the latter regard remains to be seen. But one thing is certain – social learning is propagated through television which gives executives, producers, and companies no reason to not invest in its future.

People may think traditional television is threatened by Netflix or Hulu but I think these services enhance TV. Television can exist without Netflix, Netflix can’t exist without television. TV is still going strong and I doubt that will change in the years to come.


#3: CommTech and Education


In elementary school, I remember using the colorful, round iMacs pictured above. By the time I graduated high school, we had a lab full of the latest iMac computers all of which were huge and sleek.

As Professor Esrock stated, communication technologies like computers and the Internet have been an integral part of millennials’ education. And in the future, the role of communication technologies in education will only increase.

Concerning my experience with commtechs in education, I think they have greatly facilitated learning. Things like the Internet and computers have spurred a wider array of classes being offered. Now there are classes focused solely on mastering use of communication technologies. In fact, my high school was a business and technology school that had a student help desk.

A con that I have seen, however, is the these same technologies can be used as a crutch and hinder education. For example, teachers can use online programs as a crutch without putting in as much effort as traditional education. Same goes for students. Students can fall into the trap of relying too heavily on the Internet for answers, in effect ‘taking the easy way out.’

Finding a good balance is a responsibility of the educator and the student. There is nothing wrong with using the internet, computers, or cellphones to help supplement lecture. The relationship needs to be complementary on both ends.

There are now hybrid courses which combine Internet lectures or activities with in-class teaching. A lot of language courses do this. I am currently enrolled in a hybrid course for Arabic. This course is four credits versus three due to the online component. Hybrid courses represent a balance that universities are testing out.

Another commtech that has been slowly emerging as a medium of choice is the e-book. Anyone with a computer screen can access e-books which have many benefits.

E-books tend to be less expensive and better for the environment. They are paperless so there is less waste as a result. In addition, if they are part of a cloud service you can access your books from any device with an Internet connection. Or log in to an account that has your ebooks saved. E-books are easier to search through and the devices for them are relatively inexpensive.

So why aren’t they in the hands of every college student?

Again, I will refer to the cost vs benefit equation. The cost for a e-reader can be much less than the cost of a physical textbook. It’s easier to search for specific passages or quotes and e-readers are better for the environment. According to this theory, e-books should be the hottest mode of reading.

However consumers just aren’t used to them.E-textbooks are a cheaper option, but students remain skeptical. Many people, myself included, find it better to have a physical  book. It’s easier to take notes and write sticky notes. They also strain your eyes less whenever you’re studying late at night. This is a case where individual preferences may outweigh price/benefit calculations. In the USA Today article, many students shared their varying opinions on e-books and their future. Some people have really caught on to e-books and use them regularly. Others see the benefits but want to keep traditional.

College courses are also straying from the traditional. Recently, Massive Open Online Course(s), or MOOC(s), have emerged as an innovative change to the traditional lecture. MOOCs are offered by edX, a MIT-Harvard University nonprofit, free of charge to anyone in the world with an Internet connection. These MOOCs have been raising questions as to just how much they will change higher education.

In “How Online Learning is Reinventing College,” the article identifies the candid question behind the camera which is where is this all leading?

I agree that MOOCs are a great way to reach people that universities might not otherwise engage. In the words of Horace Mann, education is the great equalizer. Now, students in under-served areas can access MIT courses for free. Hopefully, this will have a positive effect on literacy and math rates across the county. Of course this cannot count as the sole solution to education reform but it can be one of many.

Some people think universities will go bankrupt as a result of online learning. Others think it cheapens that value of a degree. Still others are cautiously adopting this technology in their own courses. Like any technology before it, it is hard to predict the success of MOOCs.

I think there is a valid point in the article that digital learning can’t provide the intimacy of the classroom or the social experience of the campus. I think again this is another example of individual preferences outweighing predictions. A student who is not engaged on campus and doesn’t get involved may as well take an online course. But a student who is active on campus may find it better to stick to traditional courses.

There are many questions still left unanswered regarding the future of MOOCs and e-books. Years later we might look back and see that they did fulfill predictions made today. But in our ever-changing now, it continues to be extremely difficult to tell just how successful these technologies will be.




Women’s Respect Doesn’t Depend on the Clothes We Wear

Over the weekend, I noticed something peculiar. Halloween seems to be the prime time for everyone to immediately jump on the “holier-than-thou” trend of shaming women for what we choose to wear.

It’s usually some dude who thinks his opinion is the standard the world must adhere to and it usually involves a long Facebook post lecturing women to have more respect for themselves.

The argument goes that women use Halloween as an excuse to dress like sluts and that obviously this stems from a deep-seeded need for men’s approval. “You don’t have to dress like that to get a man,” says Facebook dude, “Of course no nice guys will want you.” He then declares, “I would never let my wife or daughter go out in revealing clothes.” And so he lists reasons why women should cover their bodies and have more respect all in the hopes of attracting the right kind of man – a nice guy like him.

“Stop dressing like a slut!” scolds Facebook dude. “Only then will you earn my respect,” he says.

This kind of talk is the reason why Brock Turner only spent 3 months in jail for raping an unconscious woman.

People like Facebook dude are in abundance. They think a woman’s ultimate achievement is to earn their respect. That the reason women dress in revealing outfits is solely to catch the attention of men. Never mind the women who aren’t even remotely attracted to men and still dress how they want.

There are so many things wrong with this line of thinking. First of all, don’t flatter yourselves Facebook dudes. Women don’t exist solely for your approval! Your body is yours and our bodies are ours! How simple is that. And guess what? We do what we want to our bodies. Mind-blowing, truly.

Second of all, why are you attacking women for wearing costumes that have been designed by men for women? Shouldn’t you instead be questioning companies as to why there is an overabundance of “sexy” costumes?

Third, why aren’t you criticizing other men for using Halloween to run around half naked. Plenty of men wear shirtless costumes. They’re exposing themselves too. Aren’t men’s bodies also ‘sacred’? Why aren’t you policing them?

And lastly, is a woman wearing revealing clothing going to kill you? Will it affect your livelihood? Is she attacking your family? Did you die? Or are you just offended women don’t live to adhere to your standards of modesty? Seriously, get over yourself.

If you base respect on someone’s fucking clothing, I think that says a lot more about you than whoever it is you deem so unworthy of your respect.

A Brief Reflection on Dying-In

University of Louisville students held a die-in today at noon to protest police brutality and honor the victims murdered by police.

I first saw the names of the victims on the bulletin boards. The names covered the entire board. Why is that something people don’t see as troubling? How can we be okay when so many people have died that their names can cover an entire wall? How can anyone insist there is no problem?

The Student Activities Center was a powerful sight. There were people lined up all the way down past the ramp. snapchat-5367938220436981105

My friend and I joined after our class. We hadn’t thought about what we would do exactly. I thought about all of the times I saw lives being taken on camera. I thought about the anger and the grief for them and their families.

We joined our peers in lying down. It was moving to see that other people immediately followed. We all didn’t know each other but we were connected by a cause.

It was oddly peaceful lying down on the concrete. Students would walk by, some silent, others going about normally. I could see some were uncomfortable.

This wasn’t about being comfortable. For me, it was about being taken outside of the college bubble. It was about remembering those that died at the hands of police. It was not about my comfort. It was about Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, Oscar Grant, Korryn Gaines, and so many others.

It was about the lack of justice. The anger and fear that the Black community face on a daily basis. It was about those who could no longer feel peace.

I hope that this event continues to foster conversations. I hope that we don’t forget this powerful moment. Because how many more? How many more innocent lives will be taken to show America that the racism in this country has been and still is lethal?

If you don’t see the reason for the protest than I suggest you do your research. Ignorance is no longer an excuse when you have the world at your fingertips.

As for the University of Louisville, I am so proud that this happened on my campus. I am proud of the students who organized the protest. It was a touching and defining moment in UofL’s history to show that Black Lives Matter and that our voices will be heard.