An Arm and a Leg, The Whole Shebang: The Cost of Social Media

COMPOSITION I

The Price Of Social Media

An Inside look at Social Media Influence
Ashley Bush

11/12/2014
Social Media has opened a whole new world of possibilities for users, but like all good things it comes with a cost. In today’s society being social means being on social media, in fact Facebook now claims 845 million users while Twitter has 127 million. Of the users of social media, 92% are between the ages of 18-29. With so many people available on the Web, the potential of reaching them is limitless. Companies market their products; politicians express their opinions while teens and young adults express their personalities all on social media.
Society has become a web of likes, retweets and YouTube favorites. For example, take Michelle Phan who began uploading YouTube “vlogs” in college as a hobby and eventually reached a million subscribers. In 2007, Michelle posted her first video and within weeks over 40,000 people had viewed it. Michelle is now a successful vlogger, makeup artist, and has appeared in television and print ads (http://michellephan.com/aboutme/). Then there is Tila Tequila, who tweeted to Playboy non-stop until they finally offered her an opportunity to be in their magazine. These two women were able to use their social media and make themselves a household name.
Since there are so many people on social media, it stands to reason that it can be used to influence the public. Companies pay to run ads along the sidebar or at the beginning of videos. Some companies have also utilized the “like and share” idea to get the users to market for them. Cora Daniasa, who wrote The Mechanisms of Viral Marketing In Social Media, refers to this type of marketing as non-intrusive and is the new form of peer-to-peer advertising. She states that this method is especially effective for companies since it is believed that the opinion of a friend or family member is more trustworthy and reliable. Specifically, Oreo cookies released a rainbow cookie to support Gay and Lesbian Rights, they encouraged users to like and share their ad if they supported as well (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/generation-like/). This marketing tactic is used all of the time in social media forums to change the way we look at their products.
Politics are another area in which users are “marketed to” or influenced by social media. No matter which platform you choose to explore, politicians have established themselves in order to express their opinions and ideas. David Hatch wrote an article detailing how bloggers influence social issues, he wrote “top lobbyists and executives such as AT&T’s Jim Cicconi, Comcast’s David Cohen, and Verizon’s Tom Tauke are among the powerful industry figures who have morphed, by necessity, into avid bloggers.” (http://search.proquest.com/docview/751427712?accountid=38189). Through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube they have found a means to bridge the divide between themselves and their audience, making them more accessible to the people they rely on for votes. This is much like Roosevelt’s “Fireside Chats” which were radio broadcasts where he would address issues directly to the public (www.history.com/topics/fireside-chats). So while using media is not a new way to influence public opinion, the availability of contact through social media has brought it to new heights.
With the free expression of opinion, and the anonymity of the internet, many young adults and teens have looked to social media to validate their self-worth and establish their individuality. Douglas Rushkoff and Frontline did an investigative report on the social media phenomenon called Generation Like. In this video, Douglas speaks to a group of teens whom are helping a friend improve his Facebook profile and he poses the question, “Are the likes because you look the way you do or who you are as a person?” The teens all chuckle and one girl responds, “That’s what you spend hours wondering,” This expression of self can be both uplifting and devastating. One girl interviewed had gained online notoriety because of her love of the movie, Hunger Games. She made contact with an actor from the movie and got a lot of recognition for being a fan. But statistically this isn’t the norm. Dr. Luxton wrote an article for The American Journal of Public Health in which they figure that social media relates to suicide due to cyber bullying, or the act of victimizing someone over a digital medium such as the internet or cell phones. According to Luxton, “cyberbullying victimization rates ranged from 20.8% to 40.6% and offending rates ranged from 11.5% to 20.1%.” Those statistics are staggering. Social media has bridged the gap between people, and without moderation they have been allowed the freedom to make their opinions known, for better or worse.
Social media is an amazing tool which has made the entire world accessible from any computer. With so many people in one place, with so many different opinions and lifestyles, social media has created a melting pot like no other. In the words of Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It also comes with an even higher cost. In the end, social media has taken from us our individuality and ability to think for ourselves. Our own opinions do not matter unless they are accompanied by a million likes, shares, or retweets. The real cost of social media is us.

References
Phan, Michelle 2014 (http://michellephan.com/aboutme/)
Wikipedia: Tila Tequila (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tila_Tequila)
Daniasa, C. I., Tomita, V., Stuparu, D., & Stanciu, M. (2010). THE MECHANISMS OF THE INFLUENCE OF VIRAL MARKETING IN SOCIAL MEDIA. Economics, Management and Financial Markets, 5(3), 278-282. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/815240043?accountid=38189
Rushkoff, Douglas (2014 February 18th) Generation Like
[ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/generation-like/ ]
Hatch, D. (2010, Sep 17). Bloggers controlling the message. National Journal, Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/751427712?accountid=38189
(www.history.com/topics/fireside-chats)
Luxton, D. D., PhD. June, J. D., B.A., & Fairall, J. M., B.S. (2012). Social media and suicide: A public health perspective. American Journal of Public Health, 102, S195-S200. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1017604812?accountid=38189

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