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Weekly #12: Signing Off

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The title of this post has a double meaning. The first refers to the fact that this is the final post for my Social Media class. Sigh, a baby panda is crying somewhere (see above). The second refers to William Powers’ argument in Hamlet’s Blackberry that we all need to take a break and sign off from social media to maintain our sanity.

This begs question #1: Was exploring social media worthwhile? Undoubtedly, yes. This course was not about exploring tools or technology for me. Similar to Kate, it was about discovering human behavior. As Shirky states, this whole Web 2.0 movement is not about the tools, but rather the behaviors that society adopts because of and in response to them. That’s not to say I have not found some great new tools — I have. But the concepts I’ve internalized and lessons of how they shape societies and human behavior are what made this course valuable.

Come Thursday, I’ll still be using the usual suspects that have been in my toolkit for some time now: Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, LinkedIn. This class has increased my Twitter activity and my appreciation of it as a news feed, so that will also continue. As for this blog, I don’t know if I’ll keep posting. It is nice to have my thoughts “published” and to have a voice recognized by friends and family. On the other hand, it takes time and energy to produce a post of any value, and given that this stuff lasts forever and Mr. Unknown Quantity is reading it, I’m a bit hesitant to continue.

Which leads to thought question #2: Does social media do more harm than good? Our last discussion on terrorists using YouTube for training and propaganda makes me want to answer in the affirmative. And after reading Hamlet’s Blackberry, there’s good reason to focus more on myself in life than myself online. However, despite his plea to disconnect from these media, Powers makes the same argument that Shirky does: “It’s easy to blame this all on tools…We’re the prime movers here. We’re always connected because we’re always connecting.” Again, one of the core concepts I’ve learned this semester is that it’s the behaviors people adopt, not the tools themselves, that truly make the difference. So yes, there will be those who publish videos on bomb-making right alongside those who post that crying baby panda in the long tail of the social web. When everyone can be a publisher, anything can show up.

The real question is, do I still find value knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly exist together out there? Throughout this semester I’ve voiced my concerns, usually in erratic fashion, about how the social web is likely to result in us living in amniotic fluid a la Matrix in the near future. My paranoia of Mr. Unknown Quantity (a.k.a. Google) taking what I search for, e-mail, and blog about and using it against me at some point is still present. And Powers’ point that our mental thoughts lie heavily with the outer world and our reactions to it makes me want to run for the hills.

Yet, despite all this, I still think social media is an overall good. Or more accurately, it has the potential for overall good. It comes down to my faith in humanity. People can find that balance between their real lives and online lives. They can also find, as I have, that the people in their real lives are able to share wisdom and insight through online media better than ever before (see comments to my posts for proof). Those who use social tools to stay in touch with loved ones, share moments of brilliance, shed light on injustice — to connect in meaningful ways — these people make me believe in the good of social media.

And with that, I thank you for your time, thoughts, and attention. Good day, I bid you adieu.

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Written by taryou

December 7, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Social Media Class

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