How is Social Media Evolving?
Posted by miriamannelevy
Social Media has evolved and adapted to accommodate the way we as humans want to communicate with each other. The boom of social media has triggered an ongoing cycle of refinement as we find new ways we want, or don’t want, to use social media. A corrective behavioural pattern can be observed over time based on demands and problems.
Many social media sites have evolved into frameworks for people to use the application as they need. This is to accommodate users so they don’t have to have accounts with a new service for every group they have. Boyd et al. closely review the history and refinement of Social Network Sites, and highlights the demand for niche online connections. These types of sites give smaller groups a sense of community that they could get without having to physically find people. These days many network sites have designed themselves to support these niche sets of people in the form of Facebook Groups and Subreddits. Boyd et al. also bring up the rise of user-generated content sites. Sharing videos, music or photos no longer requires your own hosted website. This is another version of adaptation to address a social media problem.
Social media evolution has successfully brought more users to a few very popular sites. Consequently, this evolution of digital media is creating a level of data that we never had before. Jonathan Zittrain brings up how we can observe when two people are going to be in a relationship by looking at their data on Facebook. This type of pattern can only be observed by comparing many data sets in order to identify patterns. This level of intelligence is opening up a variety of jobs such as Data Scientists and Analytics, which are symptoms of the boom in social media usage.
This level of information has also brought up less desired symptoms. Privacy being one of the big issues. What does social media owe us in terms of privacy and are they allowed to profit off of it? Uber could be an example of taking it one step too far by tracking the location of a user even when they’ve been dropped off. But if Uber had disclosed that they tracked passengers would that be okay? Theoretically speaking, Uber could have disclosed the information and most of their users could have jumped ship. Alternatively, they could have become the cheaper option to Lift because of the extra money being made by openly selling or publishing the data.
Using data for profit can also be seen in the rise of targeted advertisements. There is a lot of controversy over targeted advertisements because users feel violated. This is still an ongoing debate on whether or not this is ethical. This is another form of social media evolution to accommodate users, but not necessarily with the user’s interest in mind.
Jonathan Zittrain also discusses the algorithms behind digital media and how they can influence a user’s perception. This brings up the ethics on changing algorithms to accurately portray current events. This entire discussion is a grey area. For example, when you look at “Popular” articles on a social media site, what does that mean? Who determines what is popular? Many user-generated content sites use an algorithm for determining this, is this ethical? And if a site profits by altering the algorithm, should there be consequences? There appears to be a demand for some kind of governance but it is unclear what it should be.
Problems like privacy and governance will open up new ways for certain social media sites to either thrive or fail. In the end, we should see new adaptations of social media for every new problem or demand that comes up.
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