Readings Response: Internet and Social Media

In class, we were given two readings to reflect upon. Both present stories of how internet and social networking has changed the world and way of living today.

The first reading is Chapter 1, It Takes a Village to Find a Phone, from the book “Here Comes Everybody: The Power Of Organizing Without Organizations” by Clay Shirky. In this story, a woman named Ivanna accidentally forgets her cell phone in a taxi car. When she calls to see if the taxi company had seen it or found it, but had no luck locating her phone. Finally, when she invested in a new phone, she was able to track down where her phone was when she was forwarding the photos she had in her old phone to her newly bought phone. The girl who had Ivanna’s phone had taken pictures of herself and was forwarding them to her friends. Ivanna contacted the girl and asked for the phone back but the girl resisted and even made racial insults about Ivanna. Ivanna and her husband continued contacting the girl until finally the girl gave them a fake address to go to pick up the phone. Instead of going, Ivanna and her husband decided to let the case go. However, the husband made a webpage just to educate people about taking others’ belongings and what the right thing to do is when that happens.

This reading really raises awareness about how the internet has become a very powerful weapon both in easily contacting people by sending messages across the world in seconds, and also by helping us track down lost items or addresses. The power of networking has both brought humans closer together, but at the same time, it is arguable that it is also creating conflicts between people. We can see in the reading that because the girl knew where Ivanna lived and knew they were far away from each other, she was not afraid to insult Ivanna. She knew that because there was the obstacle of distance, she would not have to return the phone and Ivanna probably would not go out of her way to find where the girl lived to retrieve her phone.

The next reading was an article titled “Small Change” by Malcolm Gladwell. This article talks about how social media applications on the internet play a role in activism today. He begins by telling a true story about four students who were discriminated at a coffee cafe because of their race. To protest against this act, the students informed their friends about the event and got everyone together to go to that cafe again to protest. The news about the cafe spread to numerous other schools in which those students also participated in the protest. All of this happened decades ago when social media applications were not yet invented, let alone the internet.

Galdwell states that “the kind of activism associated with social media isn’t like this [the event] all.” With Facebook, we are now able to keep in touch with many more friends than we would in real life. By posting updates about our daily activities, people can give us feedback and comments about our posts and continue contacting us. You can follow what people are doing with Twitter; people can find out your likes and interests and who you are associated with on Facebook. A sociologist named Mark Granovetter believes that there are pros and cons associated with social media. Because people can access our information that we are posting up onto the world wide web, these “weak ties [with aquaintances] lead to high-risk activism.”

The activism that happened with the incident mentioned above included lots of preparation with plans drawn up and organized tasks and training sessions conducted. This shows the difference between traditional activtism and our modern method of activism. Social media does not require any of this kind of these efforts – they are used for networking purposes, not for ‘hierarchical organization’.

Social media allows users to send out messages to the public efficiently and effectively. When Toronto experienced just a small earthquake during the summer, people immediately began posting the update on Facebook and Twitter: “Did anyone else feel that earthquake?” or “Earthquake in Toronto! That never happens!” Years ago, people would be concerned about the precautions they should take if an earthquake were to shake up the city. Today? We feel the first thing we should do is let all our friends know what we just experienced.

Lastly, Gladwell makes reference to Shirky’s story about Ivanna’s lost cell phone. He says that in this case, social media is benefitting the victim as these ‘weak-tie’ networks have allowed her to trace who has a hold of her phone. Thus, as users of social media, we need to be careful about what we upload onto the web for all to see. On the other hand, if there is a problem with lost items or anything that requires investigation, we have social media to turn to as a tool to help solve the issue. As Shirky declares, the “model of activism [that is social media is] an upgrade.” It can both work to our benefit in gaining access to information, and also put us at a disadvantage and a dangerous position if people can so easily access our personal information. In the end, Gladwell believes that these new social media will never be capable of bringing about what social change has always required.

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~ by omejelee on November 7, 2010.

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