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Social Media Today
It has been observed that one of the common ways in which we define our place in culture and among family and friends is by creating and consuming stories and images (Rettberg 2009). It is through approaches such as these that various behaviors such as taking pictures at an occasion have almost become synonymous with the event itself. The popular sequence that entails falling in love, then marriage and having children is one such cultural template (Rettberg 2009).
Though a large amount of these cultural stereotypes do not match reality, it has been observed that as humans we consume and spread these fairy tales in songs, drama, Facebook profiles and YouTube videos (Rettberg 2009). In so doing we unconsciously respond to such cultural stereotypes whether the reason behind the adoption is conscious, unconscious and even if we reject them completely.
Among the major factors that have helped build this trend is the increased reliance on cell phones and mobile technology (Lefebvre 2009). The increased use of the internet in this age group is seen in data that indicates 87% of adolescents aged between 12 and 17 reported using the internet (Pujazon & Park, 2010). Of this over half or 21 million teens reported using the internet daily which suggests its crucial role in their lives. The increased use of the internet by teens is important given that these teen years form a crucial part of the identity formation stage in an individual’s life (Pujazon & Park 2010). It has also been noted that for these social media sites to flourish there needs to be a sustained fundamental shift in human behavior is presently evident among teens (Dumenco 2009).
It has been reported that between the ages of 14 and 16 individuals’ are mainly concerned with forming an attractive social identity. Based on this it has been observed that the internet provides these teens the opportunity to ‘try on’ varied personalities. This process has greatly benefitted from the Social networking websites that allow user to build profiles which may contain audio, video, photographs or even text (Pujazon & Park 2010). These social sites play a significant role in identity formation and are currently widely used in society.
Though the use of social media has increased recently and access to such websites has been found to have both adverse and positive effects. It has been noted that social media provides a new venue for learning that is more exciting than traditional venues (Pujazon & Park 2010). Based on this fact the teens prefer tasks that involve the use of social media and are more attentive to instruction. In addition to that it has been observed that these sites also provide the visitors with an opportunity to learn how to interact and exercise self control. This comes about due to the fact that varied opinions will be aired in relation to any topic under discussion (Pujazon & Park 2010). These interactions are very useful at strengthening offline relationships and allow individuals who feel isolated opportunity to interact with peers (Dumenco 2009). Among the major concerns in relation to social media are the issues of exposure cyber bullies and sexual predators (Pujazon & Park 2010).
Digital Memory and Archiving
In relation to identity social media and current trends infer a need for further investigation into the possible impact of current technological trends related to memory. This is because what individual’s remember depends to some extent on the technologies of memory and socio technical practices in place (Van House & Churchill 2008). Whereas personal hard drives with gigabytes and terabytes of storage space were uncommon in the past, there has been a shift in the cultural context that has seen these devices become common in modern society.
In relation to this it has been observed that photos have long been considered an enduring aspect of personal, cultural or family memory (Van House & Churchill 2008). The increased use of social media has caused an increase in the number of picture taken by most individuals. Most of these images are stored on personal hard drives where archiving and retrieving them is problematic. The increased use of sites such as Flickr has led to a situation where photos are losing their archival value and are considered ephemeral and transitory (Van House & Churchill 2008).
Based on the above position it has been suggested by some that our memories are increasingly becoming digital. This has led to a situation in which society is rapidly amassing large volumes of information where deletion is uncommon but so is accretion (Van House & Churchill 2008). This huge collection of information is leading to a possible scenario where technology appears to be supporting human memory. This fact is crucial with the increased use of digital media as the observation of librarians and historians suggests preservation requires curation (Van House & Churchill 2008).
Curation suggests that there is a need to gain understanding on what is being stored permanently in order to manage this massive information archive effectively. This is because much of what we need may not be archived while a lot of what is unnecessary may be finding its way into archives (Van House & Churchill 2008). In addition to this it has been noted that as we become increasingly reliant on digital archives serious new issues are emerging in relation to ownership of digital information. The increased digitization of information has been viewed as a potential factor that could cause the colonization of memory by the developed world and the private sector. These issues are serious and need to be addressed given the degree to which the current generation relies on digital sources for a variety of activities.
It has already been observed that many teens currently rely on the internet and social media for interaction and building identity. However, many do not realize that the Internet Archive preserves past versions of large numbers of web sites (Van House & Churchill 2008). Based on this an author of an embarrassing posting may delete it to avoid repudiation in the future. However, it is known that traces of these postings remain alive on any computer that downloaded the page as well as on the internet archive (Van House & Churchill 2008). This was the case in the Enron corporation scandal that 85,000 pages of an internal email leaked to the public. This vast amount of information has led to deliberate forms of forgetting and has serious implications on the future of society. Based on this therefore it is crucial to re-examine who has the responsibility of archiving this data to avoid potentially harmful repercussions in future.
In light of the increased use of social media web sites an issue that is worth consideration pertains to privacy of information. It is common for social media and other web sites to periodically collect information about the users. This is the case when features such as Google web history are used to provide maps of how frequently one uses Google search on different days and what they searched for using the search engine (Rettberg 2009). This form of surveillance is being used by these web sites to the benefit of the user while the user is introduced to a notion that surveillance is beneficial and constant.
Based on the prolific rate at which these social media web sites have led to sharing privacy is major concern given that these organizations have access to private information. Though the company executives do not read private information, their systems store a great deal of data about individuals (Rettberg 2009). The bulk of this data is used for advertising and though these companies do not sell the data to advertisers, they use it to ensure the target market is reached (Rettberg 2009).
Unfortunately there have been instances such as a case in China, where this private data has been shared with authorities leading to the conviction of dissidents (Rettberg 2009). Based on this position it has been observed that security agencies in some regions such as the EU have made it mandatory to store internet and telephone data for between 6 and 24 months. Whereas this information is supposed to be kept for investigation of serious crimes it is evident that this total surveillance appears unfair. This ability to document bits and pieces of our lives clearly possesses the potential to be used in a harmful manner against us.
Exposure and Disclosure
The use of the data that we use while visiting these various social media web sites also raises an additional question in relation to disclosure. These web sites are supported by systems designed to harness networks effects and improve as the numbers increase (Rettberg 2009). This suggests that even the systems that support these sites encourage the collection and manipulation of data with a view to providing better services.
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The above position in relation to collection and manipulation of data should raise the question of ownership in the minds of the users. This is because whether the data is entered explicitly or generated implicitly, it still remains our data (Rettberg 2009). This is especially important due to the fact that social media is largely about the implicit data. This is because whenever you upload a video to YouTube, update your Facebook status, contribute to a blog some archival data is generated. Due to this position a web site such as YouTube has information on the people who post videos as well as those who merely watch and rate videos. In the past this collection of data was hidden from users though currently legislation requires these companies disclose the purpose for the collection. This is a major issue due to the ability to benefit from observation of patterns among the population. This suggests that it is important to consider the impact of these social web sites on our lives.
Dumenco, S 2009, ’10 Things Twitter taught me about media and myself’, Advertising Age, vol. 80, pp. 1-3.
Lefebvre, C 2009, ‘Integrating cell phones and mobile technologies into Public Health Practice: A Social Marketing Perspective ’, Health Promotion Practice, vol. 10.4, pp. 490-494.
Pujazon, M & Park, MJ 2010, ‘To Tweet or not To Tweet: Gender Differences and Potential Positive and Negative Health Outcomes of Adolescents; Social Internet Use’, Americans Journal of Men’s Health, vol. 4, pp. 77-85.
Rettberg, JW 2009, ‘Freshly generated for you, and Barack Obama: How Social Media represent your Life’, European Journal of Communication, vol. 24, pp. 451-466.
Van House, N & Churchill, EF 2008, ‘Technologies of Memory: Key Issues and critical perspectives’, Memory Studies, vol. 1, pp. 295-310.