Social Media is the Anti-Hero in the Story of Fandoms

            Social media is the reason fandoms are alive and thriving in a world that may have completely forgotten about them. Snail mail and newsletters just were not up to snuff with the rest of society, which had switched gears to a faster way of communicating. People not only couldn’t leave the house without their cell phones but e-mail engaged the thoughts of the entire world, becoming a popular medium for individuals, businesses, and institutions but also for fandoms. Technology and Web 2.0 saved fandoms from extinction and, according to Jon Accarrino in his article “How Social Media Revolutionized ‘Fandom’ Forever”,  “Social media has changed fandom forever”.

 

But with the shift of celebrities going from just a celebrity to becoming their own “community manager”, fandoms can be a little trickier to maintain and control. Being a celebrity in this new digital age has its benefits and repercussions.

 

In class, we talked about how celebrities on various social media platforms can be trampled over simply for tweeting about their opinion on a film they were or were not a part of or because their fans suddenly realized just how anti-feminist their writing was for a massively popular science fiction series like Doctor Who. Steven Moffat, Doctor Who’s new show runner and an acclaimed screenwriter underwent some flack from fans who appreciated his work but didn’t appreciate the way he wrote his female characters. Instead of taking stock in his fans comments, however, Moffat retaliated with arguments that backfired in the only way digital communication could – he didn’t mean to say this-or-that that way. After fans challenged him to more and more debates, eventually, Moffat closed his Twitter account completely.

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What can one learn from this? Can you blame social media on the demise of the reputation of one celebrity? Or do you blame the fans for sticking out their necks and proclaiming their opinions simply because their faces and voices couldn’t be heard, just read? In class, we’ve also discussed how people find it easier to blast others with heir opinions and start fights online than it is to speak about issues in real life. But, even if social media gives fans a way to communicate easier and others the ability to share their opinions safely, how safe is it for celebrities? Minorities?

 

Social media utilized by a celebrity can go an alternative way: a representative employed by the celebrity acts as the head of the communication online. For example, when actor Dominic Monaghan first came on to the Twitter-sphere, a personal assistant or publicist was the first to tweet a message about how she/he would tweet regularly about Monaghan’s life and career. If Monaghan had time to tweet himself, he would end the tweet with his initials “DM”.

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While I don’t see any fault in this manner of using Twitter both for fans and to establish a presence online to publicize a celebrity, I can see why many fans might disagree with the method. Fans, now satisfied by real tweets from celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian, were longing for the same relationship with a popular actor such as LOST star, Dominic Monaghan. In their eyes, if a personal assistant was the middleman, there was no relationship at all.

 

Do you agree with the fans? Would you feel cheated out of a fandom if a celebrity never tweeted what he/she would actually say? Are social media platforms appropriate for fandoms where people’s love and attention can be flipped at the tweet of an opposing opinion? I say onward with web 2.0 in fandom communities! Just like Accarrino said, “Mass communication with a niche community, or even the entire planet, is now direct, easy and instant” making my daily dose of news about my favorite celebrities faster and easier. Who wouldn’t want that?

Twitter: Helpful or Harmful?

Being a fanatic about something is no new phenomenon. From the very first Olympic games, people have gathered to watch and cheer for their favorite contestant competing in an event. With the inventions of radio, television, and now the internet, fans have found new ways of following and supporting their favorite players, teams, television shows, etc. However, social media have not only provided an opportunity to connect with fellow fans, it has also provided a way to personally connect to the object of fan-obsession. So this begs the question: has this new form of interaction pushed fan boundaries too far?

With the emergence of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and other such social networking sites, it has become easier to stay up-to-date with star athletes, celebrities, and the like. Almost instantly, you can watch a replay of a football play or be informed of the stats of every major baseball game happening at the same time. People now have the ability to live-tweet about reality shows, singing competitions, and other such events. And now the investment is reciprocated. Athletes can now get feedback from their fans about their opinions and thoughts on games and overall efficiency of the team. They can personally answer a fan about a question or thank someone for their support. In addition to that, Twitter is also a promotional tool for games or tournaments. This new way of interacting is a much better and easier outlet to show devotion to a certain fandom. In general, this seems like a great way for fans to be supportive of their favorite teams and athletes and to connect to them on a more personal level. Examples of certain athletes and coaches using Twitter can be found here:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/the_bonus/06/05/twitter.sports/index.html

BUT. The same can be said of displaying hatred for a rival team. Cyber-bullying is no new thing, and now with Twitter and Facebook fan pages, people can directly attack someone whom they dislike. And man, can some individuals be vicious! I personally don’t understand the need to rip someone apart via the internet (or in person, for that matter), so I have a hard time comprehending how people can be so completely rude and spiteful to someone they don’t even know. There is honestly no need to wish someone dead just because they play for a rival team or made a mistake in their PRIVATE life, which is part of being human. Because people can now personally connect to the object of their rage, barriers are being broken between public figures and private citizens.

One example of hate tweeting is a follower of the 49ers football player Brandon Jacobs. After being injured during a game, the Twitter follower said, “I hope you die a horrible death.” Jacobs handled the situation in a graceful manner, which can be read here:

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000055813/article/brandon-jacobs-responds-to-twitter-hate-messages

 

This and other such instances bring up the issue of whether or not Twitter and Facebook have allowed fans and other users to have too much access to celebrities and athletes. Should these social networking sites be monitored for hate messages? If there were a way to monitor and limit these kinds of online attacks, who should have that kind of control?

How Law Enforcement Agencies use Social Media

In this day and age being an accomplice is as easy as “liking” something. The police and other law enforcement agencies are cracking down on suspects using social media. So the next time you have a conversation with a shady friend, or maybe you’re a hooligan that does the crime committing you should probably keep it offline.

Let’s go over a couple social media outlets:

We all learned in class that our very own Denton Police Department if using Twitter as a crime deterrent. Denton P.D. tweets mug shots of the people they’ve arrested. Including, the date, time, offense, and age of the suspect.

Follow them @DentonPolice

In a recent article by CNN they talk about how one New York City gang member lost his privacy rights when he shared details on previous crimes and threats against others on Facebook. Here is the debate:

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“Debating the Fourth Amendment

In the case of Colon, the alleged gang member, his attorneys claimed his Facebook posts were protected under the Fourth Amendment, which shields people’s homes and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. But a federal judge disagreed, saying Colon forfeited any expectation of privacy when he shared online postings with friends.

In other words, the online world is just like the offline world in many respects: Your friends can inform on you to police, and detectives can go undercover to catch you in the act.

Users don’t have Fourth Amendment protection rights when they store information with a third party, such as a website, legal experts said. But Fakhoury and civil-liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation want to challenge the idea that people have no right to privacy for information stored online, especially when it comes to location data. (Even when a post or photo doesn’t include public location information, the social network can track its location by seeing the IP address from which it was shared.)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also would like to see more social networks stand up for their users when law enforcement requests information. The foundation is trying to educate the public about how information can be viewed and obtained.

“People post without realizing the consequences, and any change to preserve privacy has to start with greater awareness by users,” Fakhoury said.”

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CNN goes on to say that police often create fake online accounts to befriend these suspects so that they can view their private information. They can also go the legal route and request subpoenas and warrants if they think there’s imminent danger.

Policy Violations:

Universities have begun using Facebook to investigate underage drinking and violations of dry campus policies. Students that post pictures of underage drinking behavior, or being affiliated with drinking-related groups are being looked into.

Cyber-Bullying:

Police are using Facebook to help stop and end cyber-bullying. With the help of a teenage informant and volunteer the authorities will go through Facebook pages to investigate instances of cyber-bullying.

Police departments post and reach out to their community for support.

Here is a YouTube video from a Denver news station from 2007 about how law enforcement uses YouTube to catch crooks.

 

 

Even MySpace has been used. In February of 2006, a 16-year old Colorado boy was arrested for juvenile possession of a firearm after posting pictures on MySpace of himself posing with rifles and handguns.

 

Various social media outlets are being used 24/7 to help catch criminals. A recent survey was done to shed some light on law enforcement using social media.

According to a LexisNexis® Risk Solutions survey of 1,200 Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement professionals

  • 4 of 5 agencies use various social media to assist in investigations (Facebook & YouTube more so)
  • 67% believe social media helps solve crimes quickly
  • 87% of the time, search warrants utilizing social media to establish probably cause hold up in court when challenged
  • Close to 50% of respondents use social media weekly
  • Only 10% learned how to use social media for investigations through formal training given at the agency.

 

How does this make you feel?

Do you think law enforcement agencies have the right to peer into our social media sites?

Let me know in the comment section below.

Post by Michael Dobbins.