Social Media: Everybody’s Doing It

Here in the United States we tend to think of ourselves as the leaders in social-networking.  After all, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn all started here in the good old U. S. of A. But as it turns out, we are only a fraction of the users of social media sites. According to the article on USA Today Social-Networking Sites Going Global by Jon Swartz http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2008-02-10-social-networking-global_N.htm about 80% of social media users are outside of the United States. This means that less than a fourth of social media users are located in the United States. These are intriguing statistics considering how the biggest social media sites were developed in the United States. Upon finding out that the United States was not the largest portion of users engaged in social-networking I started to wonder how and why other users in other countries were utilizing social-networking. Is the rest of world on par with the U.S. when it comes to which sites are the biggest or most used? I have decided to compare and contrast U.S. use of social-networking with that of the rest of the world.

Picture from http://www.peoplesearchesblog.com/tag/social-networking/

In an article posted July 2012 on the site http://itechwik.com/ entitled Top 10 Most Popular Social Networking Sites In The World 2012 the top five were reported to be:

1. Facebook

2. Twitter

3. Pinterest

4. Linkedin

5. Google+

According to U.S. Social Networking Rankings http://www.socialnetworkingwatch.com/usa-social-networking-ran.html the top five social-networking sites in the U.S. are as follows:

1. Facebook

2. YouTube

3. Twitter

4. Yahoo Answers

5. Pinterest

It seems that the U.S. is following the world-wide trend with more people using Facebook than any other site. Part of the reason for this could be that Facebook has been expanding the number of languages it can be translated to. The USA Today article stated that “Facebook has developed an application to translate words on the site from English into other languages. On Thursday, Facebook said a Spanish translation is available. Anyone who wants to view Facebook in Spanish can change their language preference from their account settings. German and French versions are expected in coming weeks.” The article was from 2008. Today Facebook can be translated into “97 options. Which includes dialects like English (Pirate).” http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_languages_is_Facebook_translated_into

The reason for Facebook’s popularity around the world seems to be the fact that it is accessible to many people who speak different languages.

Globally Twitter is number two, but in the United States that spot belongs to YouTube. There are some slight variations, but mostly the same sites are popular with globe as they are with America. It is interesting that Yahoo Answers is number four in the US. I would have thought that it would be Pinterest or Google+ (sites that are talked about more and are higher  up on the global top five list).

The world seems to basically be in sync with the United States when it comes to what sites are popular with Facebook coming in the lead with the top spot. This analyis leads me to raise the question: Are social-networking sites that are popular in the United States bond to become top sites for the rest of the world? What do you think?

Civic Activism

The power of social media has grown to influence many important issues in our lives, from citizen journalism to civic engagement we are changing the old hierarchy of news gate keeping.  Civic engagement is the engagement of citizens in local city government and local organizations.  Activism can be defined as anything from sharing a link online with friends and volunteer work to giving money to a charity or cause and voting for mayor as well as president.  Both Civic engagement and activism combined have changed our lives with social media and the introduction of the Internet.  The interconnectedness of our generation has enabled us to uplift the act of citizen journalism to new heights.  The galvanization of revolutions across many countries in the middle east where started with Twitter and Facebook, such information would have not been available if not for the availability of the Internet.  Stories in the United States such as the suicide of Meagan Meier who hung herself after being bullied on Facebook by a young boy, the murder of Trayvon Martin who was chased down a dark ally and shot by a racist neighborhood watchman, and an unarmed Oscar Grant who was tackled in a New York subway by police and shot to death all have been leaked due to citizen journalism.  Ordinary citizens who just happened to be in the right place at the right time ready with their phone cameras spread information that otherwise would have been neglected by the old dominant news corporations.  Meagan Meier’s story although aired on the news was classified, the identity of the young boy who convinced her to kill her self was leaked through concerned and outraged citizens who leaked the information after they discovered that it was her adult female neighbor posing as a young boy.  Trayvon’s story raised outrage through Twitter, Facebook and other social sites after his shooter was released without trial for weeks until public pressure forced police to open an investigation.  Oscar Grant’s shooting was captured on a citizen’s phone camera and posted on the internet, the news stations ignored the story until the video went viral and sparked outrage among Americans, which ultimately forced the news stations to air the story.  Although our generation has lost interest in the old news formats, we have not lost faith in news its self; instead we took journalism into our own hands.  Citizen journalism could not have become as effective as it is today if not for the Internet, which changed our news as well as our consumption of information in a very rapid pace.  Such technological advancements have helped us promote online public dialogue among citizens through the immediate distribution of information, as well as challenge social injustice, gatekeepers and the agenda setting nature of media.  Every tool has its pros and cons, technological determinism does prove that even though we are connecting to one another and informing each other of information that is news worthy, we still produce plenty of garbage that circulates between servers.  Our generation is not disregarding or losing interest in the news, instead we are reporting the news.

Self-Regulation vs. the Internet

The Internet is a bustling community constantly adding new content with the click of the mouse. The idea of regulation within cyberspace seems almost unreachable and downright impossible. Waldman’s article, Harmful content on the Internet: Self-Regulation is the best way forward, aids my theory that self-regulation is the key to censoring the Internet. By censoring, however, I do not mean having a Big Brother figure monitoring every page accessed by user. My idea of self-regulation and censoring depicts the notion of individuals flagging something as inappropriate or offensive, thereby driving such an article/post/video to the attention of sites hosting user-generated content. Doing such actions will bring forth the consequences to the author of the offensive material. Facebook and Twitter, among other social networking sites, follow this same procedure in weeding out offensive material, like the notoriously controversial Facebook page, Aboriginal Memes, which spawned lots of negative feedback.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/08/09/facebook-removes-racist-aboriginal-memes-page_n_1759891.html

People have argued that pages, like Aboriginal Memes, will only keep spawning unless regulation from some overseer is unleashed onto the Internet. Myspace claims that they monitor the videos, for example, that are published onto their site. It becomes irritable when looking at bigger video hosting sites, like YouTube, however, that have an undeniably growing community that spits out hundreds of videos daily. Monitoring such a site would require many people and lots of patience, as the videos will only keep growing and growing. With sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, I strongly believe that self-regulation would be the obvious answer to people’s complaints. Otherwise, how would the guys in uniform choose to censor? Who would be the priority ones to protect from offensive material? Self-regulation works for all classes, races, and sexualities. youtube_logo

Within the dark alleyways of sites, like YouTube, there are videos that go beyond offensive and reveal themselves to be disturbing to innocent eyes. Videos like rape, pornography, and gang-related displays (among others) have made their way onto YouTube and other websites. A simple Google search could grant one access to a daily dose of violence, if one desired. Many people strive for a monitored, regulated Internet for the sake of the younger generation of children. I would like to counter this argument by stating that parents can download control software to block sites from children. In class, we even discussed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (CIPA)/Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which blocked certain sites (pornography, violence, language, etc.) within the public school systems of the US.

net_nanny_boxshot

Having the government regulate the Internet to a full extent for users seems unjust, as it tampers with many ethical issues of privacy and freedom of speech, among others. Censoring the Internet will stifle both creative and commercial innovation and make way for product placement and favoritism with providers, in my opinion. Censorship has been witnessed in other forms of media, like newspaper, radio, film, and television. Before they were censored, these mediums were self-regulated. Today, they consist of the same traits that I have specified above. Having a censored and controlled Internet could most surely lead the Internet down a similar path. I can almost guarantee it.

In conclusion, I believe that keeping the Internet self-regulated would be a fantastic road to travel. It keeps creative minds flowing, as it allows users to share music, chat openly on public forums, and watch videos without much censorship or intervention. One has always had the opportunity to intervene when offensive material is posted by flagging as inappropriate. Gang videos, pornography, and other offensive material will be hovering around the Web, but one can always use software to block these sites to protect younger individuals. The Internet is not a utopian society where our troubles from the outside world have been forgotten. Whether government censorship occurs or not, these troubles will still surface online, meaning this hope for a paradise will never be achieved. Just self-regulate!

The Creative Cycle

The creativity and voice of generations to come was changed forever due to the digital millennium copyright act of 1998.  The scales were tipped in favor of the past controlling the future of ideas through questionable approaches of utilitarian ethics.  Unfortunately our society’s dominant ideology of capitalism forces us into the comprehension of everything in our lives through a sense of production and consumption, while regarding anything outside that process as irrelevant and of no value.  This type of philosophy is what has driven the control of creativity and ideas into the hands of the distribution companies as the primary benefactors, and left the interests of the creators behind.   Unlike the utilitarian approach that dominates the west, the European deontological approach justifies copyright as a necessary recognition of the author’s identity and personhood.  Therefore it identifies ownership as an extension of the individual or the creator of goods.  The public domain, which is one of the tools we use to build, remix and develop ideas is more restricted now that it has ever been.  Copyright had a set amount of time for ownership that met the demands of all concerned before becoming part of the public domain.  However since the boom of the Internet and pier-to-pier files sharing software, the giant motion picture industries panicked, specifically when they confronted the wildfire like spread of piracy.   Instead of introducing a technological solution to the ethical question of piracy, the production and distribution industries lobbied Washington and persuaded them to extend copyright ownership to 75 years plus lifetime of the author.  That amount of time skips an entire generation if not two who would have been familiar with these cultural artifacts.   The Disney corporation had one of the worst backlashes against piracy and went as far as threatening to sue children for downloading Disney songs, and daycare centers for displaying their cartoon characters in their classrooms and playgrounds.  Copyleft emerged as a result of all these hegemonic negotiations, which gives the power back to the creators to dictate how their creations are used and in what ways they are restricted.  This approach although not perfect includes the fans as co creators, forming a specific language of creative processes between producers, consumers and distributors where everyone is involved and has a voice.  It is important to remember that the distribution powers that exist today are hording intellectual property and ideas that were derived and remixed from past generations .  The copyrights they are entitled to do not surpass ours, and if balance is not restored between the past and the future the creative cycle will eventually come to a halt.

The Big Sort

Our offline geographical communities are affecting our online communities, this also affects our news habits as well.  Bill Bishop is an author, reporter and columnist from Texas, who wrote a book called The Big Sort.  The book explains that in order to understand what is driving young people towards homogenous communities online, we have to look at the geographical transformation of American neighborhoods off line.  What he means by homogenous communities online is our generation’s disregard of local news and newspapers.  We tend to gravitate towards niche web sites that reflect our social class, lifestyles, habits, religion and culture.  The big sort began in the 1970’s when Americans began to cluster and gravitate towards others that share the same ideologies.  They moved into gated communities and formed housing associations and surrounded themselves with people that resembled their lifestyles, class and ideologies.  Bishop explains that these sites are not the cause of social divisions, kids have grown up in neighborhoods of like-mindedness, so hegemonic groups are considered normal.  The choices young people make regarding what sites they visit and rely on online for news and information are not immune to the social forces that shape their lives off line.  If an individual grows up in a community that relies on the internet as its main source of news and information, then that individual will most likely never pickup a news paper.  The specific web sites that this community favors as their best source of news will ultimately become the individual’s most, if not only visited and reliable source of information.  So basically you are where you live, who lives next to you and whom you talk to.  When we bond with people that resemble us instead of bridge with others outside of our social class, we are trapped in our own social bubble’s niche comforts.  In order to be more aware and knowledgeable one must strive for diversity and stepping outside their comfort zone.

Facebook and Friendship

I don’t know if you all know this, but friendship is pretty awesome. Friendship is one of the basic elements that help define us throughout our lives. Friendship has brought nations together, ended wars; it has bonded people throughout the years in ways few other things can. Friendship is a powerful thing that makes you feel a part of something, respected, even loved. But what happens to the meaning and connotation of such an important aspect of our lives when it is applied to various social media outlets such as Facebook?

Like many other social networking sites, Facebook provides incredible means of connectivity with people all around the world. You see a page that’s really cool, you can “like” it; you see someone you haven’t talked to in awhile because they now live in Cambodia, you can “poke” them. You see a friend of your brother, and you can make them your friend… Wait, what? Friend them? I barely know the guy, and the only way I can say I know him is by making him my friend? That seems like quite a leap, Facebook. Some of you may not feel so strongly about this matter, but the friendships and relationships I have with people are very important to me. So when a social media site such as Facebook generalizes such an important factor of my life by pretty much including everyone in it, I feel it kind of takes away from the whole significance of the word. No longer does being friends mean you have known each other for years and have talked extensively about your hobbies and your futures, but merely, “yeah, I know that guy.”

I’m going to tell you about my friend. He does not have a Facebook. I know, I know, he must wear a straight jacket in a room with pillows for walls, right? Wrong, he’s actually a really cool guy. Anyway, one day he was chatting with this girl, and she eventually said that she was going to friend him on Facebook, to which he replied that he did not have one. She then gave him a shocked look and asked, “Do you have any friends?” My friend was taken aback by this question. Do I have any friends? He wanted to ask her, “Do you have any friends?” To some, the term “friend” has lost its qualitative aspects and has been replaced with mere quantitative ones; a number by our profile picture rather than an actual relationship with another human being. I have a number of people on my Facebook who I have never met before, yet they are called my friends. I’m sorry, y’all, but y’all ain’t my friends. They should be called acquaintances, since the only reason we would know each other is through some mutual friends. The relationship I have with these people, and the relationship I’ve had with my friend I’ve known since I was two years old, is vastly different, yet they’re called the same thing!

What do you all think the effects social media has had on different aspects of our lives like friendships?

The Right to Remix: The Need for Legislative Reform

In response to Lawrence Lessig’s article on Remix, it is clear that one of the Internet’s greatest battles is being waged right now. The battle for the right of amateurs to build on copyrighted works. Lessig points out that one of the main issues with modern copyright law is that in the age of the Internet, retrospectively, the laws are not as modern as they need to be.

Considering the many serious dilemmas our country has to consider, law regarding copyright is relatively minor nevertheless as a nation we are due for a legislative overhaul in terms of copyright law, to account for the overwhelming growth of the Internet age. In my opinion, Lessig gave the best analogy for this issue when he relates it to the prohibition of alcohol in the United States in the 20’s. This offers some relief for Remix enthusiasts in that it suggests this messy legal situation is temporary. The question remains about how long people will wait for this situation to be rectified. Is there any end in sight? Will the situation escalate further before it is resolved? If you are like me, you have a pessimistic view of government solutions, which is compounded on a daily basis as we hear of bureaucratic red tape bogging down the system to hilarious proportions. The constant tug- of -war between opposing political institutions results in a lack of progress on many different national issues including this one. I understand the desire that many Americans have to create using existing materials as a platform, and it is happening exponentially in the culture of today. In my personal experience, I have used music as inspiration for many short videos. I have grown up in an age where an abundance of content is readily available on the Internet as well as the technology and ability to manipulate the material to serve a different project. While, I do realize the necessity for original creators to receive compensation for the creation of their work, I believe their right to dictate what the purchaser does with the piece should be scaled back. In keeping with my own experience, specifically with copyright music, I have had trouble when uploading videos to YouTube then receiving notices about violating music copyrights. However, that is occurring less and less. The issue remains that artists, or more often the companies that represent them, stifle the creative works of the masses in an attempt to extract every penny they can for the original work. This trend must change and I am hopeful that it will. It will be interesting to watch the evolution of this issue and the landmarks that break the current cycle to influence real change in government policy.


In these new and exciting times, it is clear that the laws that were put in place originally need to adapt to the culture that has changed dramatically during these past few decades. The Internet has changed the way we live and government needs to define its relationship with it in a way that is fair yet not overly intrusive.