Share (v): give a portion of something to another or others. (Merriam-Webster,2018)
In its denotative meaning sharing is a simple act of dividing goods and giving. Going beneath the surface, it is an act of social cooperation, trust, and appreciation. Ironically, it could also be selfish and with an aim of social credit and placement. The human nature has developed this simple act into a transaction leading to reciprocity. Therefore the culture of “sharing” has been inevitable in many societies throughout history. As Manuel Castells states: ‘In our society, the protocols of communication are not based on the sharing of culture, but on the culture of sharing’. (Communication Power,2009)
The sharing lifestyle held with it several benefits to both the individual and society as a whole. Individually, it enhances a feeling of belonging, gratitude, and “doing good”. Most importantly it increases ones value of trust and friendships, leading to a decrease in personal burdens and responsibilities. By sharing, the members of a community create networks of relationships that lead to an endless cycle of nurturing, collaboration and connectivity. Hence, higher goals are achieved and a social capital is formed.
However, the act of sharing is no longer limited in the 21st century. With the ever growing technological developments and the emergence of social media, the functions and purposes of sharing have altered. Having personalised content, direct exchange and openness, the production and distribution of information is no longer controlled and centralised (or at least thats what consumers believe.) Therefore, social media platforms have grasped this opportunity and strategically positioned the notion of “sharing” within a culture of participation. They have masked their economic and political power with the belief of being “supportive entities” enabling sharing for engagement and creative purposes. By doing so, users have increased their social interaction and information production online through voicing their opinions and interests. This lead to the creation of an online community based on knowledge, trust and confidence. Taking it a step further, using social media nowadays is equated with being a valid member of society, which increases social capital. Despite the fact that both the users and intermediaries benefit from the knowledge attained through the notion of “sharing”, the benefits of such a phenomena are not distributed equally. Users benefit from this “community” to a certain extent, by socialising, networking, and connecting. They enhance their imagination and creativity, and increase their instantaneous awareness of local and global news. However, these platforms are profiting from these user-generated values in several ways. McKenzie Wark perfectly simplified it into: “We get all the culture; they get all the revenue.” (Digital Labour,2012) With the detailed information provided through “sharing”, it became easy for intermediaries to personalise advertising, convince users subtly of ideas, and create new beliefs that are based on subliminal messages passed throughout these platforms.
By investing into social relations and friendships online, users have been able to expand their ambitions and better attain their goals. Unfortunately, this social capital generated through online networks is not controlled by the rightful owner, the user. Platforms acting as curators of publicly generated content have control over the existing data and the discussions happening around it. Users might be blinded by the fact that they control social media since content and information are no longer scarce, exclusive, or defined by editorial decision but are generated by “them”. But in fact, its the complete opposite. These supposedly “supportive entities” function on the implication that the practices contained within their sites are not controlled by them but by the users. However, they use these user-generated information to tailor platforms that suits their political agendas and maximise their revenue.
Without user interaction, social media platforms will undeniably lose their power. However, can individuals live without social media? The notion of interaction and sharing has been engraved into our culture that we as users find no ‘escape” route. Even limiting the information provided to these platforms became out of our reach. In order to get the full service, “allowing” the accessibility to our location, contact and microphones became a crucial step users no longer view as a threat or invasion of privacy. Therefore, the control and financial gains Facebook, Twitter, Google and others have is unjustifiable and to an extent illegal. According to Christian Fuchs (2018), approximately two thirds of online advertising market revenue is owned by Facebook and Fast Food Media Google. One might question the ability to redirect the distribution of power and control and assume its unattainable. However, Jeremy Corbyn (2018) believes that policy innovations will help strengthening the public sphere and minimising the power of the “digital giants”. On an individual note, users should remember and emphasise on the fact that they are the creators of social capitol, and should fight for a legitimate redistribution of power.
Share Synonyms, Share Antonyms. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/sharing
Castells, Manuel. Communication Power, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009
Wark, McKenzie.‘Considerations of a Hacker Manifesto’, in Trebor Scholz (ed.) Digital Labour: The Internet as Playground and Factory, New York and London: Routledge, 2012, pp. 69–76.
Fuchs, C. (2018, August 29). How can creating a public service internet challenge the power of Google and Facebook? Retrieved from https://camri.ac.uk/blog/Articles/how-can-creating-a-public-service-internet-challenge-the-power-of-google-and-facebook/