Monday, November 14, 2016

Why Social Media Lost Control

Cullen Quigley

John Atkinson, Wrong Hands
No one knows what they're doing.

In a sea of social media, the idea that everyone knows exactly what they're doing online is completely false. People tend to forget that social media is relatively very new and though we may feel that we are more advanced and connected than ever, we're also very in the dark as to the potential of these platforms and how they're affecting every aspect of our lives.

Social media is an interesting concept because it continues to evolve and experiment into new territory just as humans do. From MySpace being the first fledgling catalyst of the social media age to the leading brands of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat that we know today, everyone's still trying to act like it's self explanatory when in reality we're all just winging it.

Companies are struggling as to where to spend their advertising dollars. Analysts and data collection agencies don't know which records are important and how to measure such a fluctuating source of information that grows faster than we can calculate. Users are always demanding new features and trying to stay in the loop via social media platforms. Professionals are trying to make distinct separations between personal and professional but the distinction has primarily blurred.

What does everyone share in common?

We're struggling with social media, but we're learning through consequences and rewards.

Influencers Have Destroyed Credibility

Who really makes an impact on you? Though many journalists would immediately point to their trusted news outlets, most of the public wouldn't say the same. After such an intense election season, half of the country supported Donald Trump who attacked the media for saturating the public with information that he claimed as false. The other half of the country aggressively supported Hillary Clinton, who vowed to fact check everything. Both were biased.

While some complain about the political candidates, others are more interested in what stars like Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, and Ellen DeGenerous have to say on key issues. Athletes such as LeBron James are sweeping the internet, collaborating with actors, YouTube stars, and musicians all to support certain candidates or national causes. To discredit their star power is blatantly ignorant.

The public has become obsessed with who and what they see in their newsfeed without taking the time to do any fact checking. This could be a sign that people have become too lazy to care if it's true or it's just a reality that clickbait is becoming more enticing. When the public is constantly being bombarded by the same individuals, companies, brands, political parties, etc., people tend to fall into the hype.

There's no control. 

As seen through the aftermath of the election, the "what ifs" now hold weight. Anything online can become viral, regardless if it's true or not. Anyone can have a voice online, launching themselves into positions of influence that even television, radio, and print can't reach. It's so hard to push the blame on social media outlets for their involvement because it's their audience who calls the shots. It takes one post, one tweet, one picture to launch a wave of viral attention.

We, as the public, have let this happen though. We demanded more tailored information in our newsfeed, and we got it. We blocked and unfollowed those who didn't agree with us. We joined in on the trending topics purely out of curiosity, even if we didn't hold a strong stance. But most importantly, we pushed the blame on the media when they were only a reflection of the public they served.

The primary reason why control has been lost isn't because we aren't actively trying to control it. It's because social media is largely unpredictable and hard to measure. What is popular today may not hold importance tomorrow and we have gotten too comfortable in assumptions to realize that we're not always right. As a journalist, it's important to recognize this because the career landscape we are entering is always fluctuating, but it is our duty to learn how to adapt with it.

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