Tag Archives: Small Change

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.