Social media websites pervade a good slice of society these days, yet their novelty means that effect on society is relatively poorly understood. Today, I’ve chosen two articles that use to very different cases to explore two different social media websites in two different ways.
My first chosen article is “Why do we hate Facebook?”, written by Luke Allnutt for RFE/RL’s Tangled Web. With a headline like that, you’ll be relieved to hear that Allnutt does explore the premise of the questions as well as the question itself.
The hook Allnutt uses to discuss our relationship with Facebook is the story that circulated a few years ago about Facebook making private messages public. It was demonstrably untrue, and yet still spread quickly and widely. Many reasons are explored in Allnutt’s detailed yet readable article, but the following passage about the complexity of our relationship with Facebook stood out for resonating with so many discussions I’ve had with others about Facebook over the last few years:
Characters revert to type on social media, but their attributes are turbo-charged. The annual family update (“Chloe has had an impressive first term at Brown and seems to enjoy the social life as much as the academic!”) has become the hourly update. The whiny friend we once met now and again outside the grocery store is now a daily occurrence. Of course, we can hide these people on our feeds, but this is information we love to hate. That is the dichotomy of Facebook.
My second chosen article is rather shorter. “The fate of Sally Bercow suggests it’s all too easy to side with the baying mob” (the argument really is in the headline here) was written by Graeme Archer, and published in The Telegraph. He says
I think that the case exemplifies a problem for humans that is ancient and universal, but which, thanks to technology, is more dangerous than ever. The tendency to rush to judgment, and the desire to be part of the crowd.
After all, Mrs Bercow was hardly alone in casting aspersions on Lord McAlpine: the Twittersphere had decided it knew who was the subject of the BBC’s sensational report. Why not join in? The temptation is hard to resist (it’s one reason I gave up on Twitter for a while; I’m not immune to the phenomenon).
I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that, actually, I am pretty resistant to the phenomenon, and often finding “Twitterstorms” like the one in the Sally Bercow case more than a little tiresome: If anything makes me stop reading Twitter, it’s a Twitterstorm. But, regardless, I think Archer has a point, and I think he makes it pretty well in this article.
So, taking those two articles together: we distrust Facebook, and Twitter makes it easy for us to do bad things. Yet, by bringing these two articles together, my intention wasn’t really to criticise social media, but rather to point out that our relationship with these sites is complex and multilayered. That’s perhaps brought out more by the Allnutt article than the Archer one, but I hope you find the cominbation of the two as interesting as I did.
2D posts appear on alternate Wednesdays. For 2D, I pick two interesting articles that look at an issue from two different – though not necessarily opposing – perspectives. I hope you enjoy them!