Communicology

Tag: Social Media

7 Tips for Academic Bloggers

To sum up my master’s capstone defense and how CharacteRistic will change as a result, I’ve narrowed it all down to a list of seven (an infamously magical number). Other bloggers, especially academic bloggers, can benefit from this information because it gives you a rationale for academic blogging and tips on how to increase viewership. For a more detailed explanation of the below, check out my original public presentation (link above).

1. Academic Blogging is Absolutely Necessary

As scholars, it is our responsibility to share the information we learn within the privileged walls of the Ivory Tower with those outside them. Frey (2009) reminds us that most of the stuff scholars write is extremely hard to comprehend for policy makers, practitioners, and the public (p. 206). Scholarly journals were made for scholars to read, not for the public. Through translational scholarship, Frey tells us that scholars should ‘translate’ the overly complex language of academia into more easily understood language that everybody understands. Academic blogging is necessary because it creates an excellent platform on which to share translational scholarship with many outside the walls of academia.

On CharacteRistic, I will continue to strive to do this by keeping the mission statement in mind as I write every new post.

2. Three Types

There are three types of academic bloggers (Gregg, 2009; Walker, 2006). The first type focuses on the identity of the blogger and can focus on public intellectuals, the second type focuses purely on discussing current research, and the third type is used anonymously by bloggers to vent about the academic workplace culture.

CharacteRisitic is a combination of the first and second types, but does not focus on a specific workplace culture. In order for an academic blog to reach a wide audience with useful information from inside the Ivory Tower, bloggers must practice successful strategies to increase blog traffic (amount of readers). These strategies are:

3. Quality, Quality, Quality

Leo Babauta, one of the world’s most successful bloggers, tells us that quality content is THE most important component of successful blogs. To consistently produce the best quality content, academic bloggers must (1) write about things that are useful to their audience , (2) write great headlines, (3) make blog posts scannable by incorporating headings and subheadings, and (4) write in a common-sense style. Great quality and common-sense writing lend themselves to more readers and subscribers.

By analyzing some of my posts for the master’s defense, I found the more popular ones did indeed incorporate some of the above more than the less popular ones. The plan is to continue to write common-sense style posts, with great headlines and subheadings, that will be of use to the audience.

4. Comments

Commenting on the posts of other bloggers and effectively responding to comments on our own blogs is an important step in encouraging new readers to come and old ones to stay. Academic bloggers have struggled with this because it is very hard to encourage the audience to comment (Baym, 2009; Kirkup, 2010). Pratik Dholakiya suggests that focusing on writing strongly opinionated content will increase comments because opinionated content attracts stronger comments.

I will start to comment more on the blogs of other people and will also work on writing more opinionated content. Furthermore, I aim to write more assertively. Many of my older posts come off apologetic, and nobody wants to interact with an apologetic and overly-sensitive-appearing blogger.

5. Simplicity

Readers love simplicity. Less is more, especially when it comes to the design of the website. Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits is a great exemplar of a simple blog design. I will work on making CharacteRistic as simple as I can.

6. Image SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is described by Wendy Boswell (in this link and other articles) as making a blog visible to search engines such as Google through strategic use of keywords that relate to the target audience. Furthermore, SEO of images used in blog posts is described as an often overlooked factor for driving traffic. By giving images names that relate to the theme of the blog and by strategically using captions, a lot of readers can be brought to your website.

I found image SEO to be a significant factor in why my most popular posts ended up being so popular, thus I will start to use images and their names/captions more strategically.

7. Social Networking

Along with the items mentioned above, using social media effectively is a great way to increase blog traffic. CharacteRistic now has a Facebook page (please like it!) and a YouTube channel (I’m going to Turkey this summer, and plan to do video updates). I’m also adding new posts to the StumbleUpon directory, and am hoping to start using other social networking sites that can help with increasing traffic, such as Digg.

Making a Difference 

I’m in academia because I can make a difference by doing research that I’m passionate about and then sharing those results with other people through teaching, consulting, and public translational scholarship. CharacteRistic is a major component of that ‘public translational scholarship’ branch, and it has already made a difference because over 16,000 people from all over the world have looked through the information I’ve shared on here (see map below). Other scholars not only can, but should, do this as well.

Voltaire (not Uncle Ben from Spider-Man) said, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. This quote applies to scholars as well. We are in a privileged position in society, and thus have a responsibility to share what we know with the rest of the world, not just each other.

CharacteRistic Global Traffic. Orange and red indicates readers from those countries.

D(r)eactivating Facebook: Taking Back Control

Last Tuesday I deactivated my Facebook (FB) account for one week as part of an experiment to see just how big a part of my life it has become.  As I said last week,

Often times we do not realize what role something plays in our life until we are forced to no longer have that in our life (this works with people too). Thus, I have decided to proactively eliminate Facebook from my life in order to analyze the role it plays in my daily routine.

For more information and background on my rationale for this experiment, read last week’s entry.

In this follow-up to the experiment I will discuss three items: A.) how it felt to be off FB, B.) three things I learned about FB and social media habits, and C.) how this will (hopefully) affect my future use of FB.

A.) How it Felt

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words” and since today’s entry is already long enough, here is a picture from our Australia trip last March that exemplifies how I’ve felt over the past week without FB in my life.

FREEDOM!

Freedom!

Liberation!

Dramatic words, I know, but that is exactly how this FB-less week has felt.

I have tried many times before to limit my FB logins but it has failed because there always remained a FB profile to log into. By deactivating my account, however, this urge to log in substantially decreased because there was nothing left to be missed; no messages, no event invites, no wall posts, and no photo tags because it became impossible for people to interact with my FB profile.

I mentioned last week that I would keep a daily journal of sorts to document how the experiment was going. While I did not write everyday (graduate school schedule of death), I still ended up with a total of four “journal entries”. Below is a quote from the first entry discussing how the initial action of disabling FB felt.

Wednesday September 28th 5:21PM

It felt very good to disable Facebook.  I think I got an adrenaline rush just doing it, and felt more ‘in control’ of my world! It’s funny that such a simple thing felt so good.

FB addiction...as presented by Comedy Central's South Park.

As noted last week, I had made it a habit to log into FB a lot and to make it a part of my daily routine. I also mentioned that I did not hate FB but that I hated my FB habits instead because I was wasting a lot of time on the website. I would not just log in, check my messages and posts, and then log out (as many of my much stronger willed friends successfully do). I would log in, check my messages and posts, and spend the other time mindlessly browsing FB and clicking other people’s profiles to “stalk” them (we all do it, some people just don’t like to admit it).

After I deactivated my account and stopped logging in on a daily basis, I realized just how silly this waste of time really was. Instead of mindlessly browsing other people’s self-created online identities, I could now do more productive things, such as classwork.

It felt really good to not know what hundreds of my acquaintances, excuse me, my “friends”, were doing every second of the day.

Believe it or not, it was still possible for me to have an enjoyable day even when I didn’t find out what hundreds of people thought about the weather or the latest football scores.

B.) Three things I Learned About Facebook and Social Media Habits

1. Facebook as a communication tool. I realized over the past week just how much my friends and I use FB as a tool for everyday communication that has nothing to do with the aforementioned mindless browsing of profiles. I learned this by finding myself in situations in which the other people wanted to use FB to communicate but could not since my profile was gone.

  • I got the following text message from a friend who wanted to send me a question about an upcoming trip to Chicago via FB just a few hours after “the deed” of deactivating it: “Did you get rid of Facebook?!” We ended up talking about the trip through text messaging instead.

  • Last Wednesday a friend from New York sent me an article link via email because she could not do so over FB and we had a back and forth email conversation about the article. Usually this would have happened through FB. Appropriately enough, the article was about FB!

  • Last Friday I asked a friend to send me a text message of his address so that I could enter it into my GPS. He told me he would send an address to me via FB because he had limited text messaging. He had to send the address via email instead.

  • Yesterday I got another text which said, “OMG ARE YOU NOT ON FACEBOOK ANYMORE!?!” from a friend I had seen the night before but didn’t tell about the experiment.

Obviously, all of these interactions were casual and not serious, thus it was not a big deal that I had to use email and text messaging instead of FB. Despite the lack of “seriousness” in these messages, an important point can still be taken away from my experiences with them. Facebook was seen as the first option to communicate; the other forms of communication were only used as “Plan B” after my friends found out that FB was not an option. This tells me that we have made FB an important communication tool for our daily lives.

2. The “urge” to know. As the FB-less week wore on, the initial feelings of freedom were accompanied by feelings of being out of the loop; I actually wanted to know what my closest friends were up to. Some more quotes from the journal entries are warranted here:

Thursday September 29th 1:17AM

I am actually still happy to be away from the ‘traffic jam’ of FB. I will admit though that I had urges to check up on friends and to log in when I was browsing the web, which tells me that I have formed somewhat of a habit on checking it.

Saturday October 1st 2:00AM

I do feel a little “out of touch” with a few people that I feel that I am usually more “in touch” with.

I have “urges” to share information with the world, and have been doing so more with Twitter and Google lately.

I had developed tendencies to check up on what my friends were doing on a daily basis. While I enjoyed not following hundreds of acquaintances on a daily basis, I began to miss “being in the loop” of my closest friends.

3. Other social media. The third thing I learned during the FB-less week was that FB is not the only social medium allowing us to effectively communicate and share information with our friends online. My usage of Twitter and Goolge + increased over the past week. The former was awesome, the latter not so much.

I’ve had a total of 48 tweets since deactivating my FB, which is an increase from the 40 tweets I had the week prior. For those who have not joined the awesome world of Twitter, a “tweet” is the equivalent of a FB status update.

I spent a lot more time in the past week checking my Twitter feed because the FB feed was not an option. Twitter was a much smaller time investment than FB because there were no extensive profiles to “stalk”; just 140 character statuses to read. These Twitter statuses were often links to interesting articles with brief commentary, so it felt like a more productive use of my time. These feelings led me to post the below “tweet” a few days ago:

I also spent more time on Google +, but it was not as good a replacement for FB as Twitter. Putting on my communication theory “thinking cap” while writing in the journal, I pondered about why Google + might be less exiting than FB and Twitter:

The “newsfeed” of FB and of other similar social media websites has created in us a need to be constantly updated. Even if these updates are absolutely pointless, its not about the content of the updates anyway, its about the updates themselves. We feel more connected if we see that other people are doing stuff, even if that “stuff” consists of “liking” an obscure comment from a friend we never know or commenting on a random photo. Google + also has a stream, but so few people are on this stream that it updates only about every half an hour. On FB, however, there are updates nearly every minute! So I feel that Google + is less exciting because I do not see the constant updates!

Psychologist William Schutz (1976) (as quoted by Pearson et al. (2011)) found that human beings have three basic interpersonal needs: inclusion, affection, and control.

It seems that social media websites such as FB have become popular in part because they satisfy these basic human needs. Particularly relevant for this topic are the constant status updates on our respective social media home pages.

It may not matter that these updates are pointless. What matters is that us seeing these updates everyday might lead to a feeling of being included in our social circles.

Assuming this educated assumption is true, I might have perceived Google+ as less exciting than FB and Twitter because there were no continuous updates from the social circles on Google+ and I felt less “included” in the overall discourse as a result.

Being away from FB definitely helped me to learn and realize a lot. It has also inspired me to take some practical actions related to my FB use from now on.

C.) How This Will (Hopefully) Affect my Future Use of FB.

Last week I said,

I want to use Facebook as a tool and I want to control Facebook. I do not want Facebook to use me as a tool and to control me.

As mentioned above by Schutz (1976), a sense of control is one of the basic interpersonal needs for humans. Using FB as a communication tool loses a lot of its luster when that tool takes control of our lives. When we feel “urges” and “needs” to log into FB and to mindlessly stalk others and endlessly update our own profiles, I believe that we have let FB take control.

However, if we use FB as a communication tool (as the first point above under the things I learned exemplifies), I believe it can still be very beneficial for our lives. It still does the best job of keeping us “in the loop” with what our friends/family from all over the world are up to.

In May I wrote about the predictable fear of new communication technologies. There have always been people who assert that technology is taking over our lives and that we have no control over it; examples include the people who feared the invention of the printing press in the 15th century and people who blame television (instead of social, economical, and familial factors) for increases in violence on American streets.

Deleting FB without critically thinking about how to improve our experiences of it by changing how we use it would just be a continuation of the centuries old fear of new technologies. Instead of fighting against these new trends, we should embrace them (with a caution).

I encourage the reader to become more consciously aware of how they use FB on a daily basis and to take back control if they have given that control up, like I had.

I plan to dramatically reduce the amount of time I spend on FB. I will use it as a communication tool but I do not want it to become a time consuming daily routine. I have learned about my FB habits and will work on changing them.

Among the specific things that I will change include not re-downloading the iPhone application (for me, FB on the phone leads to over involvement) and forcing myself to not spend more than a few minutes a day logged into FB unless I am chatting with someone.

Hey, Facebook User…This post is not just about the author.  It’s about YOU. 

This experiment was not done just for my personal insights. I hope that these insights will inspire others out there to consciously evaluate their own uses of FB and other social media websites and to conduct “experiments” of their own. Many people have done what I have done (check out this ABC article) and I am certainly not the first to blog about deactivating FB: this person did it, this person talked about doing it, and I am sure there are countless more related articles on the Internet about this issue (I would die if I tried to give you all the links).

For some people doing what they are already doing is working just fine. My brother, for example, has never had a FB account and is completely content with life!  For many others, however, FB has taken control over your daily routines and you need to take that control back!

I encourage you to do so in whichever way is best for you. When it’s all said and done, FB and other social media are just accessories to communication, while the best form of communication is still good old face-to-face! The Internet has forever changed how we communicate, but we have a say in this change because we can (as of now) choose to take advantage of FB and to not let FB take advantage of us.

(Digital) Life After Death Creates Modern Day Ghosts

This week I hope to inspire you to think about something that’s most likely going to become a big dilemma for you and/or your loved ones in the future. If you are active on social media and you continue to be active on social media this situation will come up eventually. Many of you have probably already had experience with it.

By ‘active’ I do not mean having Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Google+, and MySpace accounts that you check every two hours. You are active even if you only have a Facebook page and you check it twice a month. I also assume that most people who ended up reading this blog entry are fairly involved on the Internet and have at least one social media type website (blogs count).

And now the topic…

DEATH.

Such a scary looking word, isn’t it?

I could write pages and pages about the abstract nature of symbols (such as the written languages we use) and the amazing phenomenon of people being affected in potentially dramatic ways only because five abstract and human created symbols (a,h,e,t,d) are arranged in a certain order (d,e,a,t,h).

However, for today let’s just accept the fact that death is a scary word and that the majority of people don’t like thinking about it. Due to the intimidating “finality” of death, humanity has been fascinated by the idea of an after life and other notions of defeating death for thousands of years. We may have finally found an answer and it comes in the form of your Facebook status.

Digital Ghosts

If you have an Internet identity it will not die with you when you die. It will remain online for the world to see. I’ve had a few Facebook friends pass away in the past few years and I am always fascinated by how people interact with their pages after the fact, as if they were interacting with the person who passed.

This topic is on my mind because I found the below Ted Talk this morning and also because I am working on a project in class and we are looking at how people respond to the death of others on Facebook. My partner has already done research on the topic and we had a good conversation about it during class last week.

Most of the time people use the online identities of those who have passed to send messages of condolences to the family and to express their sadness at the loss (I’ve done so). As different forms of media continue to converge and as our lives become indisputably more linked with technology, the possibilities of using technology to deal with traditional concepts of death will become endless.

For example, right now you can go to www.ifidie.net and create a Facebook video which would only be shown after you die. It is also possible to create an endless amount of blogs and to have those automatically published years from now. Someone who is dying from cancer might do this and in a sense they would still “be alive” to their loved ones because a weekly blog post from them could continue for years and years after their death.

If we can do these things today just imagine what we will be able to accomplish generations from now as the exponential growth of technology continues. For example, it will be possible for us to have virtual conversations with the dead (see video below for more). In a sense, online identities will become ghosts of those who have passed.

In a 2010 Newsweek article entitled ‘R.I.P. on Facebook’,  Lisa Miller (2010) discussed Facebook profiles of those who are deceased. She states,

Here is a real gathering place, where friends can grieve together–and where the deceased continues, in some sense, to exist (p. 24).

Miller also mentions the fact that today the average Facebook user is 33 years old and this means in about two generations a lot of people who are active on Facebook today will be dead and only their profiles will remain.

Creepy and somewhat morbid to think about, but nonetheless something we will all have to deal with in the future.

If you have the time I strongly encourage you to check out the video (it’s only about five minutes) in which journalist and new media entrepreneur Adam Ostrow discusses this topic further and asks some very intriguing questions.

How do you want your online identity to be “dealt with” after your passing?

How Many Facebook Friends Would Jesus Have had?

Social media has become ridiculously ubiquitous in our world today.

If somebody would have told me a few years ago that I would actually feel an urge to check certain websites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) on a daily basis I probably would not have believed them.

Like a lot of other people, I have a hard time stepping back and appreciating how different my life is today compared to what it was just a few years ago.

When I do step back, I realize that social media has steadily but surely become a big part of my routine. I check Facebook almost daily and actually feel like something is missing if I have not ‘caught up’ with my social networks. Checking up on the ‘statuses’ of my online connections has become as much a daily ritual as eating and sleeping. And I will argue this is the case for many of my readers as well. If you disagree, but got to this blog entry as a result of a link that was posted on a social media website, think again about disagreeing!

Are you on the bandwagon? Photo from engagingtalk.wordpress.com.

It has gotten so bad for me that I’ve made a goal to only check Facebook three times a day because I have caught myself wasting a lot of time mindlessly browsing the site. In other words, I have put myself on an online social networking diet. Like all diets, I have good days and bad days.

I am optimistic that I can change my habits and begin to view sites such as Facebook more as communication tools equivalent to the telephone rather than as life necessities equivalent to eating and sleeping. If you have read some of my other posts, you know that I am actually a proponent of social media because I think that it has a greater potential to help people from all over the world to diversify their perspectives than any other medium in modern history has had before.

However, I believe that social media use, like everything else, should come in moderation. Too much of a good thing will quickly turn into a bad thing.

And now, the Jesus part.

‘I came here for the Jesus part!’

I know, I know, you probably only clicked on this link because of the title of the blog post. To be honest, I kind of knew that a link with the name Jesus in it would get more people to click. In addition to that blatant self-promotional reasoning, there is another justification for my title as well.

I do not want to start a discussion (this time) about social media and Jesus, social media and Christianity, or even social media and religion. The main reason for my title is to reference the video that I present at the end of this post. The video has to do with Christianity, and that’s why I ask that specific question with reference to Jesus in my title. However, I could have also easily asked the same question about other religious figures (such as Muhammad from Islam) or historical figures (such as Gandhi).

No matter what you believe or don’t believe, the existence of the man Jesus in history has been well documented and the fact that he influenced other people with his sermons while he was alive has also been documented.

Thus, I think it is kind of fun to think about whether or not Jesus (or Muhammad, or any other religious/historical figure) would have taken advantage of social media if it existed while they were preaching. It seems rational that they would have, because their aim was to get the word out to as many people as possible. I think people might agree with this notion, because some have actually created social media profiles of religious figures (see photo one inch below).

Somebody on Twitter did actually create a 'Jesus' profile....

As described above, social media is becoming a daily routine for many of us, and there would be no better way today to get the word out to a lot of people than through social media. In fact, marketing techniques are starting to dramatically change because big companies are realizing the power social media has in getting the message out to a lot of people.

This leads me to the video below. It was created by Portuguese digital marketing firm Excentric as a Christmas card for their clients.

The video presents how the nativity scene might have played out if it had happened in modern times. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope that it gets you thinking about the role that social media plays in your daily life.

Also, if you can think of other religious/historical figures who probably would have taken advantage of social media if they could have, comment and let me know who you are thinking of!

“The Pen is a Virgin, the Printing Press a Whore”

My blog focuses partly on how social media is affecting the way that we share information on the Internet.

Thus, I wanted to do a post about the debate which exists in the Social Informatics discipline about the influence of new communication technology on society in general, with a particular focus on the Internet. I owe the idea for this post to a Social Informatics class that I am in right now.

A debate in academia?  What a surprise!

One of the most intriguing aspects of the growth of the Internet has been a debate on whether or not the Internet has power over us, or if we have power of it. This post will provide a very brief and admittedly oversimplified review of that debate.

Those who assert that new technology (such as the Internet) changes us without our consent are technological determinants, while those who assert that we have power over how new technology influences us are social constructionists of technology.

A quick review of these two perspectives follows, and then I’ll tell you where I stand. And then, I encourage you to comment to tell me where you stand.

Beware of the (Evil)net, it will change you! (Technological Determinist).

Anytime that you hear somebody say that Social Media is “making us” do something against our will, they are looking at things from a technologically deterministic viewpoint. A comment such as, “Facebook is ruining our ability to be social in real life”, for example, assumes that Facebook has an inherent power over us.

In Personal Connections In The Digital Age (2010), Nancy Baym describes technological determinism as a perspective “in which technology is conceptualized as an external agent that acts upon and changes society” [1].  Thus, from this perspective, new technology influences society, whether or not society wants it to.

Technology has a mind of it’s own.

An example of a deterministic viewpoint is that the growth of TV in the 20th century has demoralized our society because people spend less time reading and more time watching television. This argument illogically assumes that people have been over powered by television, and that they have had no agency in deciding how their television viewing habits would influence their other habits (such as reading).

While the technological determinist give all of the credit of power to the technologies, the next perspective gives all the credit to the users of the technologies.

The Internet can be a godsend, if we use it as one! (Social Constructionist).

This perspective asserts that the developments of new technologies are the result of social processes and needs that arise over time. Baym (2011) says that “rather than viewing social change as a consequence of new media,” the social constructionist perspective  “views new technologies and their uses as consequences of social factors” [2].

Baym (2011) uses a quote from Nye (1997) to exemplify how followers of the social constructionist viewpoint perceive the technological deterministic viewpoint that I discussed above. The social constructions think that the technologically deterministic perspectives are,

“inadequate as explanations and dangerously misleading [because] human beings, not machines, are the agents of change, as men and women introduce new systems of machines that alter their life world” [3].

Thus, according to this constructionist viewpoint, the Internet and TV only have as much power over society as we give to them. We invented these technologies, and thus we control how much we let them influence us.

This debate between whether new technology controls us or if we control it is not a new one.

“The pen is a virgin, the printing press a whore” [4]

The above quote comes from Nick Bilton’s I Live In The Future & Here’s How It Works (2010), an excellent book about how the growth of the Internet and Social Media is affecting our daily interactions with each other and with media. The quote comes from a 16th century Venetian judge, who was describing a viewpoint of the printing press.

Before the invention of the printing press in 1452 by Gutenberg, books were handmade by monks, sometimes weighed more than fifty pounds, and were as wide as modern day newspapers.[5]  As a result, they were highly treasured, and few and far between. In fact, Bilton points out that before the printing press, one of the biggest libraries in Europe was housed at the University of Cambridge, with a total of 122 books.[6] He goes on to say that today, the same university has a collection of over seven million books.

Gutenberg Printing Press. The machine that changed the world!

As pointed out by the library example, the invention of the printing press eventually led to the mass production of books.

Just as some people today might fear the development of new technologies such as the Internet, people such as the Venetian judge feared the printing press because it meant that more people would now have the power to share their ideas without the approval of monks (who used to hand write the Bibles). The printing press is not the only technological innovation in history that has been feared.

Bilton brings up the example of the telephone and points out that the invention of the telephone was also feared because some thought it would lead to people going out less and not going to concerts and churches, because they could now listen to those services over the telephone. He points to a New York Times article from 1876, which stated that “the telephone, by bringing music and ministers into every home, will empty the concert halls and the churches” [7].

Bilton also goes on to discuss the fear that people had of the phonograph, the early record player and precursor to the CD. Another Times article is quoted as saying “There is a good reason to believe that if the phonograph proves to be what its inventor claims that it is, both book-making and reading will fall into disuse” [8].

Obviously, the telephone did not stop people from attending concerts and churches, and the phonograph did not stop us from reading books.

However, these seemingly ridiculous fears about the telephone and the phonograph were as real to the people back then as modern day fears are about the Internet to some people.

The only thing to fear, is fear of the Internet itself. (Where I stand).

If I have learned anything so far in life, it’s that history repeats itself. Because of this, I am confident in saying that I am definitely not a technological determinist.

As I see it, the fear of new media has been proven as being irrational in the past, so it is safe to assume that the fear that some people today have concerning the growth of the Internets’ influence on us is also an irrational one which will eventually be proven wrong.

I lean more towards the social construction of technology perspective than I do towards the technological determinist perspective.  As I mentioned above, I think that history proves that fear of technology has been irrational every time before (we always seem to over-emphasize the negative impact that a new technology will have on us), so it would be silly to assume that the modern day fear of the Internet will somehow become justified in the future.

Baym quotes  several people who have the same viewpoint as I do, one of them says that

“The problem with people and the Internet is not the Internet but what people do with it. The same is true of a knife. I was under the knife having lifesaving surgery the same day someone across town was murdered by one” [9].

While I lean towards the social constructionist viewpoint, I don’t think that is correct 100% of the time either. Thus, I am putting my faith in a third perspective…

We have more than two sides to choose from? That seems anti-American!

Unlike the democratic system in the USA (I had to insert this fun connection!), there are more than two realistic options when looking at this debate on technology.

The third option represents the ‘independents’ of the debate, if you will, and focuses on a combination of the first two perspectives.

It makes no sense to fight against the power of the Internet.

Baym states that this third perspective is known as social shaping, and that this perspective tells us that “we need to consider how societal circumstances give rise to technology, what specific possibilities and constraints technologies offer, and actual practices of use as those possibilities and constraints are taken up, rejected, and reworked in everyday life”. [10] This perspective admits that technology can be helpful towards society at times, and also hurtful at other times.

Where do YOU stand?

If you are reading this blog right now, you are most likely a frequent user of the Internet, and thus are someone whose opinion on this debate matters.

Furthermore, you probably should have an opinion on this debate, because the Internet and Social Media are not going away. Even if you choose to not use Social Media, for example, there is a good chance that people whom you interact with still do, thus it is very hard to get away from it and from people talking about it.

If for no other reason but to out-smart your friends the next time the topic of the Internet comes up, you should have an opinion on this topic!

So, where do you stand?



[1] Baym, 2010, p. 25.

[2] Baym, 2010, p. 44.

[3] Baym, 2010, p.39.

[4] Bilton, 2010, p. 53.

[5] Bilton, 2010, pp. 50-52.

[6] Bilton, 2010, p. 51.

[7] Bilton, 2010, p. 46.

[8]Bilton, 2010, p. 47.

[9] Baym, 2011. P.46.

[10] Baym, 2011. P.45.

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