Referencing way back to my first blog post about my initial thoughts on social media, for the majority of my life I have really only used these networks for the social aspect of interacting with my friends. I used Facebook to talk to friends and stalk people’s pictures and twitter to follow all my friends from high school and stay updated on their lives once I came to college. And of course, use both of these networks to brag to my followers about how cool my life here at BC is.
However, in the recent years I have been more exposed to these platforms and learned about the other uses that these networks provide. When I came into this class I thought that I was pretty informed about social media: I had a lot of experience with Facebook and Twitter, as all college students do, but I had also learned about various functions that social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook can offer, especially after having an internship that was primarily focused on monitoring social network feeds. However, soon I realized there was much more to learn than the knowledge I possessed.
The two most important takeaways I have learned from this class are:
I was convinced that by setting stellar privacy settings on Facebook – making my tagged photos visible to only me, my posts and information on my page only accessible to my friends – I was protecting my confidentiality and preventing strangers, or worse, recruiters, from seeing what was on my page. However, after hearing Kabrina Chang, I realized I was mistaken.
And! Not only is my information easily accessible to almost anyone who knows how to navigate the web but nothing is ever deleted! Just like those embarrassing Snapchats never actually disappear, all of those excruciating, awkward photos from freshman year of high school will forever haunt me, no matter how long ago I deleted albums and untagged pictures; they will always be there. I am glad I learned this lesson now though so I can use this knowledge now to monitor each and every post I make on social media sites, as everything is permanent and resurface.
On the contrary, this very lack of privacy is what leads to one of the wonderful benefits of social media: its reach.
Which leads to my second takeaway: what I believe is the single best aspect of Social Media is its reach and ability to connect and unify strangers across the globe.
As we learned in the first class, the first exposure of social media was the reply-all function of email, basically creating a virtual chat between numerous people over a computer screen. This chat has evolved into the numerous networks and apps we have today, but regardless of which platform we choose to use, it provides us with a method of connecting or collaborating with others. These people we connect with can be our six closest friends in a group chat using the Viber messaging app while studying abroad in different European countries, or it can be a message board for patients suffering from cancer who look for support from strangers who are going through the same thing or have survived, or it can be a Facebook network of the 1,000 people we interact with in a given week here at BC. Regardless of the network of choice, social media enables us to stay constantly connected to those who surround us, whether we know them or not.
It is the mere fact that there is no privacy is what allows these viral posts to spread like wildfire since all posts are accessible to all users of the web. Thus, a tradeoff: in an ideal world all of my personal posts on these networks would be private, only accessible to my approved friends or followers, but this lack of privacy would apply to all other posts I wish to see. Obviously this is not an ideal world and so I make the most of the lack of confidentiality by monitoring my posts and exploring those of others. So as much as I would like to complain about this breach of privacy, it offers great benefits which some may argue outweigh the costs. It is really cool to think that you can find pretty much any post that was ever made on the internet, regardless of the author, their location, or the date when it was posted. It creates a sense of unity tying together our various cultures and differences.
A few examples from class that impacted me the most have been firstly an article shared about someone posting on Facebook searching for their missing grandparents and finding them by the responses their post generated! Or about someone who was involved in a hit-and-run accident tracking down the person who hit them using a Facebook post. I never realized how powerful the reach of a single Facebook post or Tweet can be. Such as the story recently shared about a mom creating a Facebook page for her son who was embarrassed of his glasses: Glasses for Noah. Or even an article I read this week about a man who found a man he mugged almost 30 years earlier and apologized to him, all over a Facebook post about a closing bagel shop. Stories like this are moving and exemplify the great benefits that these social networks have to offer.
The ease of the Internet has reduced the separation created by distance. It easily allows us to be in contact with people anywhere on the globe and increased the reach and ability to rapidly spread news. I was abroad this summer in London, and using just my iPhone, as conveniently my laptop broke within my first week there, I was able to talk with my family and friends every day, follow my beloved Bruins as they competed in the Stanley Cup, and stay up to date on all the important news and happenings in the US, from Amanda Bynes and Miley’s scandalous spiral out of control, to the passing of same-sex marriage, to the debates over Obamacare. Social Media enabled me to still feel connected to my life while I was miles away.
I have really enjoyed this course. I have learned even more than I imagined there was to know about Social Media. Been exposed to new ideas, apps, and networks that I had never heard about. And been able to connect with so many new people in our class via their postings on Twitter or WordPress. I am going to take what I have learned from this class and improve my usage of various social media sites, as I now know there is much more to Facebook than being able to stalk a friend’s photos. There is so much that social media has to offer our lives and I am excited to continue learning more and more as our networks continue to grow and innovate.