Week 5: Social Media and Its Outcomes

In Twittering the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria: Investigating Pragmatic Acts in the Social Media the author presents various uses of social media through which the public can connect to global events. In this article the author focuses on the Boko Haram attacks. In the article uses examples of comments on articles, demonstrating the public opinion surrounding the attacks. One person calls for the blame to be placed on the government for financially supporting the Boko Haram, or even blaming the West for supporting ideals of capitalism and oppression, or even calling for a separation of the country. Social media is an easily accessible platform allowing people to express their opinion on issues, in this case there are varying perspectives, even claims for solutions.

This article demonstrates the extremes of opinions which can be expressed by those posting on social media. The comments demonstrate a wide range of understandings, opinions, and commenters. Social media (Twitter specifically) offers an outlet for this discussion, especially for people who don’t have access to the decision making process, or directly to the issue being discussed. In some instances it can be an opportunity for those affected to feel as though their voices are being heard.

Social media is an interesting outlet to explore global events, especially acts of terrorism or natural disasters. From my own experience with social media those posting articles or commenting on statuses have a tendency towards ignorance in their comments. Facebook statuses and tweets have resulted in debates between people who are stubbornly opinionated and have done minimal research. The comments are based on media biases (presented by new companies), and any limited experience with the attacks. In terms of natural disasters there is usually an outpouring of “Praying for____” or “My thoughts are with____” but these people are not often the ones sending donations to organizations supporting those affected. I find social media in connection to global events is a place for people to showcase their opinions or be a good person but not actually interact with the issues at hand.

Personally I am biased towards social media having negative outcomes; cyber bullying, heated debates, cyber crimes, etc but would like to further explore the positive outcomes which can be associated with this technology. From this week’s podcast I understand that media can influence larger structures, including politics within countries. I found this to be fascinating, and an an outcome which I had not anticipated. I had not realized the incredible changes in opinions and understandings which can be gained through additional access to information, and connections to various parts of the world.

1. Is it possible for social media to be a positive outlet for personal opinions without backlash from those who disagree?
2. Would it be possible for social media to become an outlet for change and understanding of other cultures? Could social media become a tool through which acceptance is created rather than separation of “others”?
3. To stretch the idea to an extreme, do you think social media (such as Skype) could be used to learn about other countries from those living in the country? Would this be the next step in an education system geared towards interactive learning, and cultural or global integration?

Ashley Stratton

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