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Raising awareness on the risks and ingenuity in social media is of key importance

Dear professor, I have changed my draft following your guidelines (thank you for them!). I hope that I’ve managed to write a good one this time.

As it was stated numerous times in the American Cultural Studies course, social media has become an indispensable part of our every day lives since not a day passes that we fail to check up on people we care for and news that might interest us. However, despite the fact that social media has many beneficial aspects to it, there are also many risks and I would like to discuss both in my reflection, comment on how much awareness is important when using social media and whether we should delete our social media accounts. Back in the 1998, with the rise of Google, nobody thought that social media would become a necessity rather than a facilitating tool for work and communication. Information about anyone and anything was a click away and people were delighted with the fact how convenient it had become to keep in touch with their loved ones. They, however, were not aware of the risks that came along with the convenience. In the beginning, there were only seemingly naïve clickbaits that helped people access their desired sites without much ‘digging’. Through internet pages, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google, were able to create a net map where they could observe people’s interests by scanning web pages people searched for, thus breaching their privacy. As Nicholas Carr explained it in Thieves of Experience , a rather lengthy post on surveillance capitalism, ‘The map would allow them to measure the importance of every page… [it] could also be used to record the routes and choices of people as they traveled through the network, it would provide a finely detailed account of human behavior.’ (Carr, N. Thieves of Experience) Term ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ was coined to name the new arch enemy of freedom and privacy which wore a veneer of usefulness. Useful it was, because it was more convenient for people to click on advertisements about the things they mentioned earlier instead to search for them themselves, a veneer it wore because it was an instrument for mass surveillance as Carr noted: ‘‘To improve its predictions, it had to mine as much information as possible from web users. It aggressively expanded its online services to widen the scope of its surveillance.’‘ (Carr, N. Thieves of Experience: How Google and Facebook Corrupted Capitalism) More capital for companies meant more privacy breaching for the people. What many users fail to notice is on what terms and conditions they enjoy the convenience of using social media platforms and there is a fine example given by my colleagues regarding Instagram’s privacy policy. .

Of course, one could argue and say ‘You do not have to accept cookies/privacy breaching if you do not feel comfortable with it’ because to some, their privacy is not as valuable to them as it is to you. But we need to ask ourselves: At what cost do we sell our privacy? We are expected to give up our freedom, which is pricier, in return for the information we want to obtain. As it was noted in The Not So Candid Cameras , a blog post about raising awareness of dangers that lurk behind Google’s attempt of installing cameras in public places, ‘It’s going to require real sacrifice to restore our privacy and finally let us decide whether or not we want to opt in.’ On the other hand, as we discussed on our forum and as in plusone put it nicely ‘Nevertheless, we cannot escape social media, but we can learn to use it in a non-toxic way.’ We do not have to delete all our social media, but we do have to educate ourselves on how to use them so as to avoid our privacy being exploited. A nice start would be to actually read Terms and Agreements on sites before blindly accepting them as jana claimed in her reflection Beyond technology – the impact of social networks and digital culture rules: ’We must be aware that, whenever we, e.g., accept the Terms and Conditions of different web services or apps, we give permission to have our data stored and used later for targeted marketing or some even more malevolent actions.’. People could also educate themselves by raising awareness of the fact that not all sources are reliable, just because they are on the Internet and just because they seem reliable. We’ve already discussed Mike Caulfield’s strategies of web literacy for checking whether sources are reliable or not, and as it was said in reflection about how Credibility and trust are not built through clickbaits ‘cross-check the information using at least one other reliable source – the main newspapers or news agencies, check out the credibility of the individuals quoted in the article and other stories covering the same subject.’, meaning that, if one wants to make sure whether an article they read holds water- they should always double-check with several different sources. Being aware of our privacy’s exploitation is not an only issue to be tackled, awareness also has to be raised in matters of content and context collapse in social media. As Nicholas Carr argued in his blog post about content and context collapse that emerged universally with the rise of Facebook, ‘Content collapse… is the tendency of social media to blur traditional distinctions among once distinct types of information — distinctions of form, register, sense, and importance.’ I believe that not only traditional distinctions were blurred by social media, but more importantly, it blurred empathy and spirituality of people. A fine example was illustrated by Mike Hurst in a blog post about Snapchat in which he explains how Snapchat released a rather bizarre face filter that showed ‘America’s original sin’ (Mike Hurst, Snapchat and content collapse) i.e. slavery as if it were not a serious issue that affected many lives throughout history. This lack of awareness and appropriateness results in collapse of humaneness because it diminished weight of the crimes committed against humanity, crimes such as slavery.

I want to finish my post by looking through the different lenses and take a more positive stance and I would like to comment on ingenuity of social media. As my colleagues discussed in this forum topic about deleting social media ‘The social media phenomenon offers a lot, if one knows how to take advantage of it. You don’t have to be consumed by it, devour it instead.’. It was already noted in this reflection that one of the things that social media has to offer is the fact that keeping in touch with our loved ones has never been easier. Another benefit of it might be how easy it is to make friends from all parts of the world, as stated in this forum post about online friendships: ‘virtual communities are developing more and more, and there are great places to meet people who are similar to you.’. I believe that people shouldn’t delete their social media accounts but they need to raise awareness of the dangers of social media, moreover they also need to be aware of how social media allows them to make new friends and stay in touch with the old ones.

By: S.B.
This post may be used for research purposes.

I hereby confirm that this work is solely the result of my own independent scholarly work and that if any ideas, text passages, or diagrams from books, papers, the Web or other sources have been copied, paraphrased, or in any other way used, all references – including those found in electronic media – have been clearly acknowledged and fully cited.

Resources:
Carr, N. (2019, January 15). Thieves of Experience: How Google and Facebook Corrupted Capitalism. Lareviewofbooks.Org. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/thieves-of-experience-how-google-and-facebook-corrupted-capitalism/
The not so candid cameras. (n.d.). The Culture Crush. Retrieved December 21, 2020, from https://www.theculturecrush.com/feature/not-so-candid-camera
Carr, N. (2020, January 13). From context collapse to content collapse. Rough Type. http://www.roughtype.com/?p=8724
Caulfield, M. (n.d.). Web Literacy for Student Fact-checkers [E-book]. Mike Caulfield. https://webliteracy.pressbooks.com/front-matter/web-strategies-for-student-fact-checkers/
Hurst, M. (2020, June 25). Snapchat Content Collapse. Creativegood.Com. https://creativegood.com/blog/20/snapchat-content-collapse.html

Social Networks and Privacy. (2020, November 23). Intercultural Extraneity. http://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=26
Should we delete our social media account/s? (2020, December 13). Intercultural Extraneity. http://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=59
Online friendships. (n.d.). Intercultural Extraneity. Retrieved December 27, 2020, from http://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=56

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