Does this cartoon make any sense to you?
I’m willing to guess that most of us can relate to something in there. I’m not such an extreme case, but I will admit that often I see the world through a social media lens.
I can’t look at these symbols:
@ # bit.ly comment
and not think in terms of 140-character messages.
I also can’t answer the question from a former boss, “why would you use a site like Yelp or Foursquare to find a restaurant when you can just search on Google?” without a confused look on my face as to why he’s even asking that question and answer “because you just do”.
Is social media becoming our reality? And if so, is that a good or bad thing?
Through Critical Theory and Marcuse’s “One-Dimensional Society” we developed the idea that media can damage our capacity for critical thought. Cultivation theory led us to believe that media saturation skews our perception of reality. Media can get a bad rap – making people into “passive receivers” and “out of touch”. You hear similar criticism about social media: that it is narrowing or dumb-ing down the quality of information or that people should get off their computers and into the “real world”.
I think that social media is creating a new reality where we are more engaged and more critical. Just as a bad haircut could be my fault for not reading the Yelp ads, not knowing something is because I haven’t looked or haven’t connected. If I need to know about a topic I can research it and should research it. And that will probably include reaching out to the expert in my network or checking my Twitter feed for news and reading what my friends are following or posting. There are so many resources available and so much diversity in all of those perspectives, the reality of social media is a diverse and infinite set of sources from which to question the basis of and formulate your opinion.
I would say social media exerts equal if not greater pressure to have an opinion and support what you say. Just as fast as you can post your opinion someone else can and will refute it. And it exerts more pressure on us to be more critical. Social media is interactive – we comment, we question, we think even more critically because we can and are expected to voice our reaction and participate in the discussion.