Implications: Public versus Private Communication II (2019)

Certain Implications of Public Communication Part 2

(By Ngozi Adighibe)

The previous week, we looked at Public & Private Communication: Certain Implications. How individuals, sometimes unintentionally, play specific roles on social media sites and some of the implications of these unintentional actions; and we concluded with the question of who has the most control- Owners or Users? We also posed the question of who determines how social media platforms evolve.

So, having highlighted sites that fall under the category of social media and the fact that individuals who engage in these sites are often manipulated into taking specific actions, it’s time to address the issue of who is truly in control – Owners (site developers) or Users (consumers)?

Owners versus Users

Yes, users are influenced to take specific actions on social media sites. But, we must remember that human beings are not robots and so, as much as individuals are being manipulated to perform specific actions on these sites, they also force owners of these platforms to continually review and introduce more user-friendly formats. In other words, neither owners nor users have sole ownership of how these platforms evolve; both have roles to play.

In fact, most of these platforms are designed to adopt certain real-life ideologies. For example, the famous saying, “Show me your friend and I will tell you who you are,” seem to have been adopted in online situations. This can be observed when certain ads are placed on your page or timeline, simply because a friend liked that product or service.

Similarly, specific recommendations are made to individuals based on their friends’ online actions; implying that because they are friends, they are likely to have similar tastes. Thus, not only does social media steer human beings in a particular direction, individuals and society also determine the way these platforms are designed to function and how they are being utilized.

I read a book titled ‘Globalization and the media’ by Jack Lule. After reading that book, I had a discussion with some of my colleagues on whether they categorized themselves as “social determinists” (believe that people determine technology created and its uses) or “technological determinists” (believe that technology shapes human life). At the end of our discussion, the fact remains that no one wants to acknowledge that his or her life is shaped by technology, even though in reality, it is so.

Nevertheless, one can safely say that as much as human lives are daily influenced by technology (social media), individuals still have the upper hand, because they determine what is considered as relevant in most of these sites. They also decide through their actions (whether intentionally or unintentionally) how significant any social site becomes in not just their lives, but in the society in which they live in.

Stay tuned to this page next week, for my final thoughts on this topic.

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