How has Social Media changed you? Here are some questions worth thinking about – if you still think for yourself.
Has Social Media changed the way you communicate? While the answer may seem obvious to most, perhaps what is not so obvious how it is changing the way we think, feel and act.
That impact is not lost on governments and large organizations as they scramble to exploit the array of communications channels that call themselves Social Media.
How do you use Social Media? How many channels do you follow? How many hours of the day are you engaged? Do you ever disengage?! It is said that time is your most valuable commodity. Are you getting a good return on investment for your time spent on Social Media?
Are you more interested in the twitterverse than the universe? Last Friday, according to one person who was there at the time, during a lively Senators versus Canadiens hockey game in Ottawa more people (who incidentally paid hundreds of dollars for their tickets in the premium level seats) were busier working their smart phones than watching the game play out in front of them. Were they disengaged? Or does Social Media allow them to feel more engaged and part of the action? Or is a fast-paced action game alone simply not enough excitement any more for our faster-paced Social Media society?
How short is your attention span? How quickly do you move onto the next great thing? Do you need to constantly check your e-mail or FaceBook or LinkedIn sites? Do you reach for your phone at the signal of a Tweet? Or in the absence of one? Are you lonely tonight, afraid you might be missing out on what someone might be commenting on?
Do you prefer in-depth analyses of issues, or are you content to simply glance through headlines and leads? Happy just to have a broader sense of what is going on around you. Wider and not deeper.
Images and headlines. Info graphics. Tweets. And interesting tidbits of information to lure you down threads of clickable content that lead you to distraction.
How do they influence you? How did you react to the recent graphic beheadings of American and British citizens posted on You Tube by groups in the Middle East? Were you appalled? Enraged? Or was it just another video in a torrent that competed for your attention this week?
How accurate is the information you receive… and pass on to others? Do you stop to question that accuracy in the urge to be first with the latest information?
Much to QMI Agency’s chagrin, they were first to publish that Sidney Crosby was arrested in Ottawa for drunk driving last month, only to learn through a Tweet from Ottawa’s Chief of Police that the Ottawa Police had no dealings with Mr. Crosby… and further learned that Sidney was not even in Canada at the time! QMI Agency boasts on its website that it is French and English Canada’s leading news reference. What about us mere mortals? We should fear for our immediate outrage on hearing unsubstantiated information that cause Social Media Kangaroo Courts to suddenly surface, drawing in thousands, including political leaders, who do not want to be left out in the haste to offer their judgment, without knowing the facts, wading further into uncertain waters.
And whose truth is it anyway? Who did you believe when Russia took Crimea by force, hurtling western Europe back into an era of politics long thought behind us.
According to a paper prepared for Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Centre, Jill Dougherty, a former Moscow bureau chief for CNN, writes that “…battle is being waged with a dizzying array of modern weapons, including electronic media, digital communications, blogs and social media. “Previously, there was artillery preparation before an attack,” Dmitry Kiselev, Russian television anchorman and head of a new government information agency, says. “Now, it’s informational preparation.”
“…for Moscow, the conflict in Ukraine is accelerating profound changes … the centralization and mobilization of information resources in the hands of the state, providing the Kremlin—and President Vladimir Putin—the means to galvanize public opinion domestically and in the region, as well as forcefully assert Russia’s policies, views and—increasingly—values internationally.
Putin has succeeded in dominating the media landscape within his own country and parts of Ukraine. Now, the Kremlin has set its sights on a broader international audience and is rebuilding the media and propaganda structures that collapsed, along with the Soviet Union, two decades ago.”
Social Media is playing a huge role in this.
According to an article by Forbes Magazine contributor, Paul Roderick Gregory, although Vladimir Putin secretly handed out awards to 300 journalists for their “objective coverage” of events in Ukraine “… Left out are the equally important invisible cogs of his propaganda machine; namely, the social networkers, rumor-mongerers, and the armies of trolls, poised to attack any unfavorable media. This invisible, clandestine army, toiling away in obscurity, is an indispensable weapon in peddling the Russian narrative of “neo-Nazi extremists” backed by the U. S. state department and NATO, who usurped control from the “democratically-elected” Ukrainian president. We know Putin’s visible media and can evaluate it as such. We cannot say the same for Putin’s social media warriors, who operate behind a veil of secrecy, anonymity, and assumed identities.”
But not all users of social media are treated equal in Russia, according to Robert W. Orttung and Christopher Walker, who wrote in a Freedom House Blog. (see http://freedomhouse.org/blog/russias-media-imperialism#.VDH3TIapsYs) They state that the repressive “bloggers law” signed by President Putin on May 6 says a good deal about the troubling decline of free expression in Russia. They say this measure comes on the heels of a series of other laws that have recently been put in place to restrict television, books, films, and certain public performances, further curtailing Russia’s already besieged media space.
As the Social Media armies pump out more and more information and disinformation, saturating the blogosphere and other social media channels, will there simply be too much? Will we lose our ability to record and recall history? Will we remember what was said yesterday? And, then, how will we react to what is said tomorrow?
Like it or not, there is no going back. Social Media is here to stay, at least until it morphs into the next phase of our communication evolution. As we tentatively or wholeheartedly embrace Social Media as a preferred way of communicating one with on another, it will continue to affect our lives and change how we consume information. It will change how we think, perceive and act, or react, as individuals and as groups. We need to decide how much it will change us and to what extent we trust governments and major organizations to be involved.
Do you agree? How will you use Social Media?
Info-graphics: “Dumbing things down” or “Clearing things up”? An info-graphic from the recent Russia / Ukraine conflict. (Source: RIA Russian News Agency)