How Social is Social Media?

To begin to understand social media, one must start by understanding what the terms “social” and “sociality” mean and how it is approached through media. Two famous philosophers and sociologists, Ferdinand Tonnies and Karl Marx, believed that the co-operation is the basis of being social. In regards to the Internet and sociality, there are media outlets that allow individuals to interact and collaborate to create digital products to share with others which encourage even more sociality. On these social media sites, individuals are encouraged to comment, like, and share one’s digital product which enforces participatory culture. Being able to express opinions and actively taking matters into their own hands through the digital world created a new environment of participatory democracy. But how social is social media and are one’s true opinions really heard?

Beyonce’s Instagram photo during her pregnancy has been recognized as the most liked photo in Instagram history.

A decade or so ago social media sites like Facebook became popular and status updates were the main feature that people used. But now, multiple social media outlets have developed like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, where individuals can like, comment, and share. This opened up an entirely new world that allowed people to openly express their opinions. But is this opportunity to share thoughts actually beneficial? As liking and commenting grew more popular, so did the individual’s need for self assurance. People began to measure their self-worth through the amount of likes and comments they received with each post shared. Some even go so far as to delete pictures or posts that do not receive the amount of likes they desire because it would not set up the right “image” for the individual. So are these sites that are suppose to promote social activity and collaboration between individuals really just to benefit an individual’s confidence?

Nicki Minaj sharing her opinion publicly on Twitter and receiving thousands of retweets and favorites.

The evolution of social media outlets allow people to openly share their thoughts and opinions. But how often are these thoughts heard and taken into consideration? In the novel, Social Media: a Critical Introduction, Henry Jenkins, an American scholar, discusses how many individuals’ opinions are pushed aside due to bigger companies, social media outlets, and celebrities that overshadow the common person. Companies like CNN their thoughts and opinions on a worldwide basis and are able to reach a larger audience than people who produce blogs recreationally. This uneven distribution of exposure does not allow people to voice their concerns and opinions as effectively as they should. So is the growth of participatory democracy as effective as it seems to be?

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