Where in the Online Community Do We Draw the Line?
By Anthony Ferrara
Why does Eric Garner matter so much? Sure, I understand the whole “cop brutality” thing. I get that he was a black man who was essentially killed by a white police officer for nothing more than hardly resisting arrest.
I understand why this would make the news and stay a lead story for a couple of weeks.
But why has it had such an impact on society that LeBron James recently wore a t-shirt that says “I Can’t Breathe” during his pregame workouts?
In fact, why is the slogan “I Can’t Breathe” even relevant to our society in the first place?
Social media started out in the early 2000’s as a way to connect and reconnect with family and friends online. Sites like Myspace and Facebook were a free platform for people of all ages to be able to express to the online world—and their community of peers—what was going on in their lives.
It all began as an innocent and personal pathway to communication with the people around you.
As social media began to expand we saw Myspace hit the bricks and Facebook emerge as the top social media site out there.
It extended itself beyond the campus of Harvard and brought an experience like no other to the keyboards of millions of people.
You could easily post updates and add people that you know, all as a way to stay linked up with the people that you did not want to lose touch with.
Of course, it also doubled as something to do in your free time, like a dating website.
Little by little, a new website called Twitter began to take shape during the early 2010s. Originally, its intent was to challenge Facebook as a top website in regards to social media.
It was more of a celebrity based feel and that is what drew many people to the site. You could follow your favorite musicians or athletes and read up on what they were doing as if they were one of your friends.
As these sites expanded, more and more emphasis was to be put on the personal side of the user.
The only way to further manifest the product was to offer more options on the information that users were willingly presenting online.
At first, it was simple. Photos and videos were now able to be uploaded easily onto the profile page. The world was now becoming as firsthand as it had ever been.
You could live 3000 miles away from somebody and know exactly when and what they ate for breakfast that morning.
While it’s easy to see how such an unsuspicious idea could take a turn for the worst, I’m not sure that even Mark Zuckerberg himself could see just how much these sites would eventually have an impact on a global scale.
Within the last five years or so, social media has turned from a personal time killing experience into a full-fledged news organization.
What this means is that people started realizing that they could really generate ideas by simply making a status update, or tweeting something.
We instantaneously became a society that was basically generating its own news content. The giants in social media and marketing picked up on all of this, and did so in a not so obvious manner.
We are now seeing our social media timelines become tailored to our preferences—based off of information that marketing agencies develop by monitoring our status on these websites.
News has never been so easy to access but has also definitely never been so easy to filter—and most of the time we don’t even know that it’s being filtered.
So what is now news is completely up to us. Unfortunately, instead of using all of this content for good, we are continuing to be lazy with it.
Instead of diversifying our feeds, we continue to click on the same stories and people that we always do, because it’s very simple to just mindlessly wander throughout our newsfeeds with no actual realization that what we are seeing has a real impact on society.
Eric Garner matters so much because everybody is choosing a side in relation to video that was broadcast online for the world to see.
There are his supporters and there are his critics. There are people screaming to “Support the NYPD” and there are people proclaiming the phrase “I Can’t Breathe” everywhere.
Diversify yourself, your newsfeed, or do whatever it is that you need to do to open your mind because the choosing of a certain side—and broadcasting your decision through your status update—will do nothing but further complicate all of this madness.
Once again, social media was created to connect, not disintegrate.