Social Media: Weapon of Mass Datafication?

Sorry this is late.

In the reading “Small Change” by Malcolm Gladwell, the author expresses his disdain for social media’s effectiveness to solve a social issue, and he is correct in this assumption. His statement, “Social networks are effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires…It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact,” rings true because it embodies the distinction between opinions and actions. Without physical action and response in the non-cyber world, a thought cannot have an effect on society.
However, social media is a wonderful way to collect information. For example, in Big Data by Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier, Facebook and Twitter were used to count the number of vaccinated and unvaccinated people,” Datafication is not just about rendering attitudes and sentiments into an analyzable form, but human behavior as well. This is otherwise hard to track, especially in the context of the broader community and subgroups within it. The biologist Marcel Salathe of Penn State University and the software engineer Shashank Khandelwal analyzed tweets to find that people’s attitudes about vaccinations matched their likelihood of actually getting flu shots.” By using software, almost anyone can keep track of public trends and use this information to make an observation and predict social tendencies.
In all, social media is a device for facilitation, not a tool for action. When this concept is grasped, real changes will begin to occur, as opposed to the fleeting calls to action that have flooded our feeds. And when social media is finally recognized as purely a information sharing program and not a political machine, people will begin to enjoy spending time online.

4 thoughts on “Social Media: Weapon of Mass Datafication?”

  1. To comment on your last statement, if people didn’t enjoy spending time online, then they simply wouldn’t do it. Perhaps once people realize how ineffective social media is at organizing and instigating large social changes, then we’ll actually be able to make changes in society.

  2. You made some really good points about how people use information collected from social media to predict social trends and ultimately do good things for society, but I also believe that social media does have a huge effect on society outside of the information collecting purposes. Social media lets people express their thoughts and ideas to others, and even though it may not effect society in an immediate way, like Gladwell talks about, it does affect the people in society. It allows people to communicate with others that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, therefore allowing people to experience new cultures and obtain new ideas about the world. This eventually changes the way our society thinks as a whole, which may not be instigating social change in the same way as the Civil Rights Movement, but it still affects our society and is something to consider.

  3. I do like the flow of your thoughts, as well as your recapping of Gladwell’s major points, and how you tie your argument and his together seamlessly. And, to provide a little bit of my input, I do agree that social media is a medium, and not a tool–Facebook is a social network, and not the stepping stone to a social revolution. However, I do feel that social media are a means to achieving the goal, even if that goal may simply be to spread awareness of a cause, such as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: they just aren’t tools in the practical or literal sense.

  4. I agree that without any actions, opinions won’t be heard and taken seriously by the people living in the real world.
    However, even though the effect of those opinions posted online cannot influence the non-cyber world effectively, the social networking system and the online society can hugely shape the ideas of people who constantly get online, and more importantly those people are mostly from the new generation and will become the majority in the future.

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