#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.

#8: Video Games

most-popular-video-games

From Mario Kart to Resident Evil, video games have become a staple of modern society. Video games are far more than a mode of entertainment, they have become a billion dollar industry available on TVs, PCs, smartphones and tablets.

The video gaming industry has had a profound impact on not only American society, but global society as a whole. Prominent players can compete with people from around the world in tournaments and receive thousands of dollars in sponsorship and donations. Companies like Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony make millions in revenue each year. South Korea has a huge gaming scene that may be a reason why the Internet speed is so fast. Video games are also a vehicle for socialization, projecting images and stereotypes to people of all ages.

In regards to business, video games have pushed companies to vertically integrate their functions. Software companies like Microsoft have gone into hardware via the Xbox. The opposite is true too, for example, Sony’s EA. Distributer Google hosts thousands of games on Google Play as well as Apple on the App Store. Vertical integration has proved successful for these companies and they show no sign of stopping. These companies have adapted to the effects of the principle of relative constancy. When households spend more on video games and equipment, they spend less on DVDs, CDs, radio, TV and so on. Therefore, companies expand their reach by making content or gaming hardware.

The content of video games has also been a hot topic of debate. Like TV, many people are questioning violence depicted in video games. As mentioned before, video games are a tool of socialization. Many have come under fire for their depictions of women, violence, and other cultures.

I’ve seen that many games are based on a foreign invasion where you are a patriot fighting back. These games subtly instill nationalism and can be argued that they also desensitize users to violence and war. There have also been controversies over the depiction and over-sexualization of women in games as well as the treatment of female players in the gaming community. Many times, games take place in foreign lands where the depictions of people and landscape can be negative.

Although concerned parents and some members of Congress are pushing for more regulations, I doubt these will pass any time soon. Instead, it’s up to users to push for accountability for video game producers.

Video games are far more than entertainment or hobbies. For some, it’s a way to make a living. Gaming culture has become a subculture in the United States gaining increasing spotlight with the wider diffusion of games. Globally, competitions bring people together from opposite ends of the world. In the US, gaming continues to influence the way we see ourselves and our relation to others through socialization. Video games have become a staple of our culture and will continue to stay that way for years to come.