How many times a day do you check your phone, tablet or hand-held devices for various reasons? A study by Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers found the average user checks their phone close to 150 times per day. People of all ages and walks of life try to stay connected throughout the day. It seems the most important urge of everyone these days is being connected.
We are pretty much connected, interconnected, linked and hyperlinked. Many of us go to bed with our smartphones or tablets in our hands, and check them as soon as we open our eyes in the morning. For almost half of us, our gadgets and internet connections are more important than chocolate, love and even sex. It amazes me how people get easily accustomed to new technologies and it’s like everyone was born with their gadgets ready to tweet, search, chat, post, text, and whatnot. Madness, isn’t it?
Take a short poll: What is your opinion on being connected throughout the day?
It seems everyone is online these days. The globe became a small place in the era of the Internet. We read news, watch movies, create projects, do our work, sell stuff and many other things. Our connectedness to the world through our gadgets puts us in a reality where our every step is scheduled and programmed. The Internet became a total interactive media place. People are engaging with media increasingly by using media resources to fulfill their daily tasks and long-term goals.
However, such an engagement requires both sides—media and its users—to share their resources. Media outlets must know who we are, what our habits are, what we eat, where we work, where we go out and with whom, etc., to provide us (users) with required information. Owing to such a cooperation, every single aspect of our lives is under a scrutiny, shelved as in a library, explained, learned, and transmitted. Nothing goes undeclared, unattended, or unexplained. Thanks to media, we know which food is healthier than others. We know what to eat and where to eat. We are told which restaurants are the best, where servers are great and do not like getting tips (just kidding) and where they ask for 25% tips. We know which movies and shows are highly rated and which ones are not. We are told what is best for our fitness. We know where to go when we finally decide to get in better shape and how much our payment would be per month, per year, etc. We know which stocks to buy and where can we profit and which stocks to dump and not get close again.
We learn, we study on our gadgets, since everything seemingly is within an easy “grasp”. We do not have to take trips and travel far abroad any longer to learn things about countries and their natives. We just research on the net places we intend to go and ask people around the media about their experiences with those places. Sport events and comments are delivered in real time. These are not only television or radio comments, but comments of our peers. Moreover, we can participate in it by sending messages, posting comments, or tweeting and retweeting things to praise winners or shame losers, or just to be in touch. Wars and conflicts are explained and shown in our gadgets in detail and we do not have to even think; we are already told who the bad or good guys are. We know who to follow most and who to unfollow. This sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Mainstream media vs Social media
Mainstream media is defined as traditional forms of mass communication, such as newspapers, television, and radio (as opposed to the Internet) regarded collectively. Mainstream media can be a powerful tool in the hands of those who have access to information acquisition and distribution. For the most part, media outlets are the first to know and to inform, although recently, there seems to be a shift towards some sort of a balance between different types of media. The volume of world information, thanks to the newest technologies, is unimaginable and it’s growing with an unimaginable pace. Whoever has access to the original information has a lot of power. They make their own rules to inform or misinform people, offering their opinions and comments, suggestions, and solutions—winning people’s minds and directing their actions.
Media have always played an important role within society. However, even though very often they make their own rules, they also should follow society’s rules and traditions. The mainstream media creates society’s opinions and approaches to any kind of matter by selectively delivering specific news and events to regular people. They do what they are supposed to do—they manipulate masses. People within a society like to be manipulated. It is human nature to manipulate and to be manipulated. And I mean it. I would not necessarily paint the word manipulation in this context as a negative word per se. There are many ways of manipulation. One of them is this:
Let’s say you are at a department store looking to buy a T-shirt, but you hesitate because you don’t know which color or brand to choose. Suddenly, while you walk around the store, you see a mannequin that is wearing a green-colored T-shirt that you want. You like the color and you like the brand so you choose to buy this T-shirt for yourself. No push, you are just being manipulated. People who dressed the dummy like that want you to buy their product and they will do everything to make you buy their product. You’ve got whatever you have longed for, they got your money. Who cares that there are many other manufacturers on the market with the same or even better product, but they are not able to dress the dummy the same way at the same exact place the brand you bought did. They would love to manipulate you, making you to buy their stuff; however, they lack the ability to do that for several reasons.
Anyhow, let’s return to our sheep, i.e. the preceding discussion. Well, if I want to be entertained, I pay to be entertained. If I want to be manipulated, I pay for that too. I’d like to live by the rules and laws of society. I am a member of society and I’m being manipulated. If I don’t live or play by the rules of society, I become a savage. If you poll 1,000 people on the street—would they like to live by society’s rules or want to be savages—you’ll get the answer that is the majority response, and the one you have right now in your mind.
Take a short poll: Tell me if you like to be manipulated?
Owing to the recent great technological advances, a new type of media made its way to every aspect of our life—social media. Social media, as we know it, is the media where everyone is immediately involved. People of all ages and social statuses are on social media. The old models of media seem to many people to be outdated, and do not satisfy them any longer. The worldwide Internet, social television and social networking sites have revolutionized the world we live in. They brought about new digital and virtual realities, where one can sit comfortably in front of their computer or tablet, or just lie on the couch staring at their smartphones and be involved in many ways.
There are a whole lot of things you can do on your devices. It ranges from sending emails, posting news about yourself, blogging, friending or unfriending people, and ordering stuff online to discovering new places, people’s traditions, cultural features and habits, and sceneries, becoming silently or vocally involved in events and situations throughout the world. Meanwhile, it seems like everyone who is not busy lying on the couch tries to find something “spectacular” in their lives to capture, film and depict it in every “creative” way to upload to social media sites to show off things to the whole world.
Literally, as we have already discussed above, the whole world is on the Internet searching, discovering and liking or disliking creations of millions of people alike, who were the ones who found them first and uploaded to the net. Mainstream media can be found on social sites, as well. They post their breaking news, attractive stories, and videos on all possible social networking sites, trying to win their customers back. By doing that, mainstream and social media are getting very close to each other and intertwine in many ways, but they don’t merge because they have different agenda so far.
Take a short poll: Which one is more important for you?
Social media advancing.
There are millions of people worldwide online and interacting through social media sites. Some of them are just on the surface, catching all the “sunshine” and attention they can get, and there are others trying to stay in a shade shying away from would-be followers’ attention. On the other hand, the net itself barges into people’s private lives, changing norms of privacy and making people’s lives different. Life has changed and many things that were not possible in the past are available for almost everyone.
For example, one can take satellite pictures of their neighbor’s private property piled with tons of cow manure from the Google Earth and post them to social networking sites or show them to the court to prove their lawsuit. In fact, this has recently happened in New Brunswick, Canada, where a couple has been awarded $15,000 in damages, to be paid by neighbors who have also been banned by the judge’s decision from spreading manure within about 1,000 feet of the plaintiff’s property. How did they convince the judge? They exhibited photographic proof taken from Google Earth, as per Calgary Herald. Taking someone’s property pictures from space is not illegal, there is no law against that. Meanwhile, these poor people will finally get rid of the neighbor’s stench irritating and blocking their noses after many exhausting years of an unfruitful legal battle.
Media allows everyone to see scenes happening every single day in remote areas of the world, or just in my city, or just one block away from the place where I live. I would have never learned about these things without the Internet or social sites, unless I watch television or read newspapers, which many people don’t do. A lot of people cut their cable; they do not watch television per se and do not read newspapers or magazines. Social media gives us ideas, shows things we have never seen before, provokes our mind, and tries to make us feel involved—even though events are happening somewhere else, behind our borders, far from us, somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Maybe it’s good to see it, to hear it, to have our own opinion about things. Moreover, social media asks your opinion to get you engaged. Do we really share our thoughts, or do we get them from media? Does it really matter? It’s not that easy, is it?
Social networking growth.
People living far from each other connect through social networking sites. These connections happen easily. You just need to know someone who has social contacts and the social sites will try to connect you to these people. Social media sites are famous for finding new friends and networks for their users. Friending someone in real life is not an easy task and a lot of people will say they don’t really need new friends or get to know new people.
Social sites connect former classmates, colleagues, exes, real-life friends, met-once-on-Marla’s-and-Brett’s-wedding people, or just some random people into myriads of social networks by naming them groups, job networks and so on. It’s the way most people live now. If you are not on one site, you are on another. If you are not on any site, you are networking through your phone, Skype, etc. This makes a lot of everyday-life things easier but it also makes them more complicated.
As we all know, people tend to care about their family, beliefs, and…money. What about our senses and emotions? Aren’t we doing a lot to indulge our senses and maintain our emotions? I believe, these are the main moving forces behind people’s involvement with networks on the social sites.
People feel connected, they feel passionate about things happening in places where they have never been. This is the new reality of the 21st century. Everything is connected. When people get a vibe that someone in their network needs help, they go out to support or to protest on the streets of their own town. News about their actions will make its way to the social media and everyone involved will soon learn that people support them or protest them. No one is alone in this world, any longer. All one must to do is to log in to one’s preferred social site and never, ever get logged out.
Give you a recent example, people in Europe, Africa or in Asia are not specifically involved with everyday life in the USA; however, they got excited with the recent USA election news, expressing their likes or dislikes of the nation’s choice, candidates, and officials. They went out to support or to protest presidential candidates. Creative people came up with creative ideas, making products for sale with names, images, slogans, etc., of candidates on them. Women marched around the globe, as it was dubbed, to protest against things they don’t like or to show their solidarity with other women.
January 21, 2017
(LA, CA image by Larissa Puro/USC for Global health, Paris, France image by Melissa Brunet)
With all the positive sides of social networking it has many negatives in it, as well. Social media these days increasingly interferes with peoples’ lives. Take an example: the mass violence at UC Berkeley recently, dubbed as the Berkeley riots by media. A crowd of University students violently attacked their campus, the speaker supporters, the police at night using crowbars, fire and god knows what else, protesting Breitbart’s editor’s (whose ideas they don’t like, obviously) expected sp-e-e-ch delivery. That’s huge! Violence, crowbars, DIY fire-throwing weapons used in acts of violence against some guy’s verbal presentation. This happened—not in Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Iraq or somewhere else where violence is present and free speech is nonsense—it happened in one of the most famous free-speech-advocating universities of the United States of America.
Violence is always an alarming thing. Freedom of speech is a right of every human being, not just an Amendment to the US Constitution. When violence occurs over someone’s right to speak, even if you don’t like the speaker or the speech, it makes things look bad. I don’t take any sides here and I genuinely believe it’s social media that gathers individuals (mostly good individuals, obviously smart, selfless, truth-seekers) and transforms some of them into groups of violent people going against the law.
So, what’s the story? Who do we believe, and who do we blame? Of course, everyone has their story to tell. And they do. They stories are on social media sites, available for everyone. What I think it is: people are not the same people when they are in a crowd. Their violent actions are incited by social media from both sides. It’s just another example of manipulation. It’s not an excuse or an explanation of their acts. It’s just a fact that was proven by various researchers. Should we blame media for the violence? I would rephrase the “don’t shoot the messenger “metaphor into “don’t blame the messenger.”
Reader beware: Fake news.
Media likes news very much. Hot topics and breaking news are the most likeable, especially if they are in sync with the outlet’s beliefs, direction and understanding. They’d rather catch and deliver hot news about the president’s wife rather than news about aliens who are about to invade the country. And the cycle begins— unverified hot news becomes fake news and rushed to their audiences. It happens all the time and it doesn’t matter what type of media is involved. What kind of phenomenon is that? On one hand, people are fed up by media’s fake and real news, which are often not distinguishable one from another. On the other hand, people find a getaway on media sites looking for news, looking for something fresh, hoping for support, getting excited again and again…and disseminating them.
Fake news, rumors spread through networks, finding their way across the oceans. People scan over news in the blink of an eye, and start posting and reposting what they’ve scanned. Although what they’ve just shared was masterminded by some Macedonian teens longing to make some money out of it during the 2016 US elections. The first article about Donald Trump that these teens ever published described how, during a campaign rally in North Carolina, the candidate slapped a man in the audience for disagreeing with him. This never happened, of course. Their fake post was shared to teens’ surprise 800 times, as per Wired.com.
Another example, just recently, my wife found on one of the main networking social sites an article posted and re-posted thousands of times, with tons of comments about a cannibal tribe somewhere in South America. Get this— they speak Russian, and they kill and cannibalize everyone who gets close to them. Allegedly, they even eat members of their own tribe, since some “survivors” counted only 72 people left out of 1,000 natives. Are you laughing right now? You don’t believe this crap, do you?
She believed in it, because it was on social media. She was very serious about it. She is a smart person and she has a university degree. How many people believed in that BS? Do we know how easy it is to manipulate people like that? This kind of news has always been out there, since the dawn of civilized humanity; they seem to just become more famous now because of social media. Since it’s on social media and it does not name any people or countries, it just makes people scratch their heads without any legal consequences. Did you notice the specific thread in it? Does it make it more believable to you?
Take a short poll: What do you think about making fake news?
Social media is the new reality of our world.
We are in the new reality of our world, which is now, and will continue to be, shaped in every corner of this planet by the social media. The process becomes more obvious and prominent in the era of uncertainty and big changes. In the era of the World Wide Web, there are no boundaries or borders. No one, no country or territory is insured against that. It’s there and everyone is involved. Social media is the new reality that will evolve and grow, and it will govern human societies for many years to come.
I think President Trump knows that and that’s why he is all over social media. He might know things we don’t? And it’s not only him. A Canadian journalist rhetorically asked several years ago, “Who put Twitter in charge?” This was his surprised response to the former Prime Minister of Canada’s active presence on the social media site. A lot of things have changed since then. Many world-renowned politicians have shown great interest in being on social sites—interacting with fellow citizens, politicians, and the whole world.
Do we know what our future will look like? Anyone?
Founders of futuristic ideas Marinetti, Boccioni and others could not even imagine what kind of extremely fantastic technological advances in communication will shape the lives of regular people, not only in Western civilization but almost everyone on the planet Earth in the beginning of the 21st Century. Global interconnected servers, sophisticated handheld devices, powerful portable computers, an unimaginable variety of accessories, satellite, cellular and wireless networks, all kinds of global positioning systems, robots, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, offices, and smart gadgets, you name it—they are already in humans’ lives in almost every corner of the planet (or getting there).
Along with the technological revolution and great advancements, here is another ongoing revolution…the social media revolution. Social media takes over every aspect of our lives and almost every single person’s life on the planet is involved. The technological revolution triggered the unstoppable avalanche of social media. The avalanche is rumbling and growing, involving every country and territory in the world. Bad or good, real news and fake news, facts, interpretations, ads, commercials, digital knowledge, people’s opinions, etc. are mixed and stirred together inside the avalanche, rapidly flowing on everyone. No one can’t stop the inevitable. It happens and will continue to happen whether you like it or don’t. It will happen even in those places where the net and media are restricted, localized, blocked and marginalized. There is no way it can be stopped. It does not ask permission from anyone, it just grows and gets bigger and more powerful—trampling down anyone who stands on its way. There are many things for think tanks to consider in this regard, many decisions to make and conclusions to come up with. Good luck with that.
We are not here to judge. We do not judge, we merely try to comprehend where we stand, what happens around us and what our future will look like.
Take a short poll: What will future of the humankind be like?