I am a happy go-lucky monkey cockroach.

Why is it when people want to relax after a hard day at work that some self-appointed authority figures want to try to ruin it for the majority? These uptight authority figures are scholars who found the treasure trove of social media, and have decided that the best way to keep their paychecks rolling is to argue and complain about how social media is not being used to the scholars’ intelligence standards. Well, I cannot argue about them making money with their complaining about social media, as making money from social media is one reason that social media exists.

Most of the people who are posting their thoughts and experiences in social media are using a wide variety of media, such as texts, photos, videos, and etc. Most people are posting for their friends and family; they are not doing it to establish an audience. While some people believe that if you do not like a posting, just move on or post a complaint, or, even better, just block that person, scholars such as Andrew Keen decided write nasty opinions about social media websites’ users. According to The Wall Street Journal‘s article “Full Text: Keen vs Weinberger” (2007), Keen claims that social medias websites’ users are “monkeys” and “cockroaches,” and that our postings are “infantilized self-stimulation rather than serious media for adults.” Furthermore, he states that users’ copy and pasting media (such as YouTube videos, Pinterest, etc.) is “creating a generation of media illiterates.”

Interesting theory, but Keen is wrong. If Keen wants serious adult time on social media, he could create his own online group, or stay at work. When most people need a break from adulthood, they turn to social media, so what? The medical field has stated that we need a work/life balance, so relaxing with a cat video that someone copied and pasted from a social media website is perfect. And from someone whose mother is learning how to use the Internet, copying and pasting anything online is a skill, thus I cannot believe that any generation is media illiterate. Many social media websites were created for connecting with others and allowing users to show off their personality, so social media was created for entertainment, not specifically for intellectual debate, although there could be groups created on these websites for such discussions.

So, how are these scholars finding all of our postings, which are leading to a “digital abundance …to intellectual poverty” (WSJ)? It turns out that what many scholars find disgusting about our postings, they cannot wait to read and analyze. boyd and Ellison, in their article, “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship,” stated that scholars gather information from users’ profiles, forums, and discussion groups for research, and that this information “offers unprecedented opportunities for researchers” (2008, p. 224). I find this very disturbing, that some stranger may be taking much of a user’s posts, friendship connections, and etc. and then analyzing this information for a paper. (Should not the user first be contacted, asked for permission, and receive compensation?) I believe that other people who know about these scholars’ plans do not like this as well, because of the following message that can be found posted on a great number of profiles on FetLife:


I had often wondered why people would have this message posted on their profile page. Who would research people’s profiles? I had never thought to ask, but after reading bodyd and Ellison’s article, I understand that users’ posted information is indeed being used for many purposes. Besides one purpose to tear social media websites down for users’ “digital narcissism” (WSJ), another purpose may be to shape how we see the world, done by website companies themselves.

Now, in Jonathan Zittrain’s talk on the “Is The Internet Taking Us Where We Want to Go?” (Aspen Institute, 2015) panel, Zittrain states that websites like Google and FaceBook use algorithms, that can control what a user sees in a search or in their news feed. For example, he reports that these companies have altered searches (Google can remove people’s history, among other things) and change what appears in a news feed (not letting certain news stories to go viral). In these cases, I do not mind companies not allowing us information because these are free websites, and they have to make their money somehow to pay for all the bandwidth that users burn through. However, if users were paying to use these websites, then whether these companies liked users’ postings, content, etc. or not, users should be able to see everything, and the companies should not be able to force their opinions on the users of how they think the world should be.

Thus, for some social media websites, many users may not be aware that the social websites that they are using for enjoyment and staying connected to others are using their information in way that the user may have never wanted. Because many of these social websites are free to use, some users would be fine with having their information used for marketing, but not for research and analysis. For those who do know what the scholars are doing with their information, some users have posted messages telling people not to use their information for research purposes. If having one’s information used as research was not bad enough, there are scholars complaining how we are using the social media websites for play and not for intellectual discussions. For those scholars, I believe that they need stop forcing a false doomsday on people and enjoy what was meant to be enjoyed. If these scholars feel that they really do not like a path that social media is taking, then they need to stop complaining and find a way to make it better. If they cannot, they can always build something for people like themselves. The Internet is large; there is plenty of space for them, the cockroaches, and the monkeys too.



Aspen Institute. (2015, July 4). The Internet Taking Us Where We Want to Go? [Video File]. Retrieved from YouTube https://youtu.be/rGUvi5qv6BU?t=29m34s

boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 224.

The Wall Street Journal. (2007, July 18). Full Text: Keen vs Weinberger [Web log  comments]. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB118460229729267677







Posted on September 20, 2015, in Blogs, Digital, Literacy, Social Media, Technology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. In my opinion, this was the best post of the week. It reviewed all three of the readings without getting too long-winded and also brought up an issue that all MSTPC students need to be aware of: the ethics of research. There was an incident with Cornell researchers a few years ago. See here http://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-study-sparks-ethical-questions-1404172292 for more details, but in brief: “Researchers from Facebook and Cornell University manipulated the news feed of nearly 700,000 Facebook users for a week in 2012 to gauge whether emotions spread on social media.”

    Any study that involves any group of people, whether it’s an anonymous survey or review of their public blogs needs to get Institutional Review Board approval before you even start documenting things. It’s way more than just a quick email to obtain permissions, especially for something like Facebook since that is still somewhat of a “walled garden” rather than completely public blog or twitter spaces. See http://www.uwstout.edu/rs/humansubjects.cfm for UW-Stout’s guidelines.

    As a way to push for more transparency, a colleague of mine at UW-Milwaukee has created the Zuckerberg Files:

    The Zuckerberg Files represents an important step towards this broader understanding, approached through the lens of Mark Zuckerberg’s own language. By gaining a better understanding of how Facebook’s founder and CEO conceives of his own company’s role in the policy and ethical debates surrounding social networking, we will be better suited to critically engage in a dialogue on privacy and Facebook, inform design and policy recommendations, and increase user awareness and literacy.

    Finally, I also appreciated your take on the copy/paste issue. When I was first introduced to wikis, the only way I could learn that formatting was copying/pasting, and while I still don’t know HTML, practicing that gave me some insight.

  2. You have raised some interesting points. The research issue in particular has me thinking as does your take on Keen’s view.

    I’m not sure contextually he was stating all social media users are monkeys. Could it be he was positioning so called citizen journalists against professional journalists? No? You’re probably right, but I don’t think there is any denying a flattening of professional journalism that corresponds directly to the advent of the Internet and rise of social media.
    As citizen journalists become more accepted by the public as part of mainstream journalism, journalistic standards overall are suffering. People actually think Bill O’Reilly, for example, is providing hard-hitting journalism, but he isn’t. Entertainment maybe. Punditry certainly. Journalism—as a trained journalist, not in my opinion.

    But, people are accepting the O’Reilly factor (case intended) as journalism and citizen journalism is, as I said, infiltrating traditional journalism. The longer we go the harder it will be to tell them apart and the fewer the people there will be left who know how to tell the difference. After all, several years ago it took CNN weeks to realize their new slogan “Real News. Real Fast.” was grammatically wrong. (It should have read “Real news. Really fast.”) Big deal. One could argue it was a solecistic expression: something we know is grammatically incorrect but say anyways because it sounds correct. Or, was it representative of lower standards or did someone just not know better?

  3. Thank you, Professor Pignetti, for clarifying the rules for Internet studies. I knew that there had to be some kind of rules in place, because something did not seem right when I read that people were warning scholars not to use their profile for a study.

    Anyway, thank you for the compliment on my blog posting as well. 🙂

  4. lol, yes, Aaron, I’m right. I’m not sure how much you know about the Times cover that Keen was referring to, but as soon as he did that, he clarified that he was talking about the public masses. Otherwise, he would have dropped “citizen journalists” somewhere in his spiel.

    Also, by him covering nearly everyone, he got more bang for his buck by insulting a larger audience, which probably brought him more publicity, which, in turn, probably meant more profits for his book. If nothing else, he received more traffic to his page(s) and possibly more love (and hate) mail.

  5. “lol”? Ouch, season1980. Did you just call me a monkey or a cockroach? ;o)

    I rhetorically recognized in my comment what was Keen was saying: “Could it be…No? You’re probably right…” then moved on to add my viewpoint.

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