The Social Web Essay

Submitted By Melissamillerc1
Words: 1643
Pages: 7

The Social Web
Melissa C. Miller
INF103 Computer Literacy
Professor Joan Rhodes
May 27, 2013

The computer age began the revolutionizing of a global connectedness. This revolution jumped ahead with the advent of the Internet and the increasng connectedness of everyday citizens and was fast-forwarded exponentially with the explosion of social media. In a couple of short generations, the world has become a very different place, with connections that might take weeks to make through "snail mail" less than 100 years ago now taking place practically instantaneously through various avalable mediums like Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and email. While this technology has almost infinite beneficial applications, the negative aspects are equally numerous. A big problem with the rapidity of technological change is that other areas such as the law, education, employment, and the basic mindset of most people have not kept up with the new world which we all now inhabit. Without exception, every American (to say nothing of the rest of the world) is having personal information stored and aggregated countless times a day as they leave their "digital footprint" with transactions ranging from making a credit card purchase to logging on to social media to ordering a movie through their chosen digital medium (Bowles, 2010). Grocery store purchases made using a store loyalty card are used to tailor deals to the individual shopper, "Likes" made on Facebook are used to personalize advertising amed at the user's perceived preferences, and prices may even fluctuate based on factors such as zip code. Street view cameras can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection and allow almost voyueristic spying on any location in the world. While the Internet and social media have become accepted parts of American life, the realtively short duration of these ubiquitous connections means that long-term outcomes are unknown. Internet interactions, while often substituted for real-world meetings, are very different from interactions undertaken by previous generations. Dave Awl calls Facebook "the new town square" (Awl, 2009), where people come together virtually instead of actually. This new option of making new friends or catching up with old ones gives a much wider access to like-minded people, but it can have detrimental consequences that reach much further than the computer and the intended audience. Information shared digitally can have life-changing ramifications that users may not have foreseen, from employment to civil or criminal courts to social stigmatization. The digital interactions individuals undertake often give a false feeling of anonymity, and therefore security, when posting comments, blogs, status updates, and the like. Sitting in the privacy of one's own home posting a Facebook comment to a close friend can have the same feel as an intimate one-on-one conversation even though in actuality everything said is preserved forever and available to anyone who cares to look for it. Prior to the social media prevalence, most people tended to keep separate and distinct groups within social circles. Work friends were given a different level of personal information access than family, for example. In today's world, a person's facebook is often shared with a much wider circle, perhaps encompassing everyone from the company president to your child's schoolteacher to your closest childhood friend. These people would previously have been kept in clear-cut categories with different personal presentations presented accordingly. Social media blurs those lines, potentially changing perceptions of seemingly unrelated qualifications, such as job performance or parenting ablity, based on expressed attitudes and opinions. While the potential ramifications stemming from adult social media interaction can be sobering, when one considers the pervasive use of social media by children, those ramifications become terrifying.