Mass Media in the Internet Age

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People who “proudly” state that they aren’t on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, or any social media platform, baffle me. I told someone statistics show that one in five couples meet online and she retorted that Facebook was the leading cause of divorce today, so she and her husband had deleted their accounts. I explained that people have been unfaithful since time began and the marketplace had simply changed. If Facebook were a country, it would be the largest country in the world by population, but she shook her head.

When it comes to social media, I maintain that the rules of engagement are still being written and should continue to be written. A gun in the hands of a soldier inspires confidence that our country is being protected. The same gun in the hands of a teenager walking down the street, inspires fear. I was social media shy once, then I started blogging. I now embrace social media and by extension the internet.

In the fifteenth century, Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press system that aided the rapid mechanization of bookmaking and led to mass production of books. The implications for mass media were astounding.

According to Wikipedia, “the relatively unrestricted circulation of information and (revolutionary) ideas transcended borders, captured the masses in the Reformation and threatened the power of political and religious authorities; the sharp increase in literacy broke the monopoly of the literate elite on education and learning and bolstered the emerging middle class. Across Europe, the increasing cultural self-awareness of its peoples led to the rise of proto-nationalism …”

Sound familiar? Yes! The Arab Spring, various hashtag advocacies e.g. #bringbackourgirls, viral videos, the Occupy movement, etc.

Some say the advent of the internet and prevalence of social media is similar to Gutenberg’s work, which democratized knowledge and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy. The internet is rightly called the information super highway.

We’re living in exciting times for anyone, yes, anyone who has something to say. Social media provides an accessible platform to disseminate information and make possible bilateral intimacy, where audiences can engage with producers of content.

Not everyone is delighted with this development or taking advantage of it. A video producer grudgingly pointed out that the cutthroat business of producing videos has been made harder by social media because people and companies can upload videos made with their cell phones on YouTube. The same could be said for writers who compete with free content online. However, when trends shift, smart people look for new opportunities or create them.

I’m increasingly convinced that someday in the distant future, paper books, CDs, and DVDs will become antiques, displayed in museums and purchased in vintage stores, with articles in Wikipedia written about the history of them. These articles will be read, listened to, or watched on devices that support online content, think tablets and the Apple watch. Don’t believe me? Maybe it won’t happen in my life time, but history is on my side.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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We The People

People

 

Imagine a school playground thirty years ago. A girl in a white blouse tucked into a maroon skirt, shares an opinion with four others dressed like her. One of them starts to make fun of her accent, mimicking her speech. The others laugh and join in. The girl soon realizes that raising her voice to defend herself prolongs the caricature. She stomps off to a corner. When they walk down the corridor to class, she lingers a few paces behind. Her classmates are still giggling and acting as they enter the classroom. They incite the whole class to uproarious laughter.

Fast-forward to today. Same incident, only that one kid would have recorded it with her smart phone and then shared it on social media. This time, as the girl walks down the corridor, there’s more laughter and pointing as students look down at their phones and up at her. She would eventually watch the video and her sympathisers would assure her it isn’t that bad. Compelled by curiosity, she would read comment after comment and die a second death.

Humans are the common denominator in both stories. In a previous post, I suggested that maybe technology is neutral; it just amplifies who we already are. There are humans behind the inanimate internet. Give a fool money and you magnify his ability to do foolish things, but money isn’t the real problem. The internet can provide a breeding ground for our worst impulses to flourish.

In his 2015 TED Talk, Jon Ronson begins by pointing out, “In the early days of Twitter . . . voiceless people realized that they had a voice, and it was powerful and eloquent.” He then tells how people used their power to effect change, saying, “This was like the democratization of justice. Hierarchies were being leveled out. We were going to do things better.”

However, the major part of his talk centres on our own misuse of privilege, the opposite of democracy. He traces how one ill-advised tweet by Justine Sacco, a former New York PR officer with 170 Twitter followers, incited a Twitter storm that not only made her the worldwide number one trending topic on Twitter, but also cost her, her job. His talk is titled, How One Tweet Can Ruin Your Life.  

Sacco’s story isn’t new to me. But, Ronson’s story telling made me uncomfortably aware of how gleefully we applaud another’s fall. According to Ronson, our desire to be seen to be compassionate is what led us to commit this profoundly un-compassionate act. Although I did not participate in the Sacco mob action, there was no moral pump fisting from me. I could picture myself in another time and setting, in a white blouse and maroon skirt.

Social media is now and the future. It is the platform where I share my thoughts with the world and interact with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Because the rules of engagement continue to evolve, talks like Jon Ronson’s hold my interest. Kudos to those raising their voices against social media shaming and calling for better internet policing. But who is going to police the place where it all begins, that is, the human heart?

I share details about Ronson’s talk and other innocuous social media faux pas with a friend. She says, “You see, that’s why I’m not on Twitter and hardly do Facebook.” I nod but after she leaves, I think about how Ronson concludes his talk, “The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people, but we’re now creating a surveillance society, where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless.”

Surely, abandoning social media isn’t the answer?

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Jon Ronson’s TED talk is shy of 18 minutes. If you’re reading this, you do social media and listening to it is worth your time.

 

 

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Forging Connections through the Internet

connection

A friend shares a story about a CSI-style drug bust sans gunfire in her apartment building. When the police question her about her neighbours who are involved in the crime, they are surprised that she knows so little about them. I am not. Once, I saw a man fitting a key into the lock of a front door two houses from mine. He waved as I walked past and I nodded in response. I hadn’t seen him before. Maybe he is a neighbour. Maybe he is a thief. This is city life.

It is against this backdrop that I wonder if the internet and social media and the technology behind them are responsible for the distance and disconnect among people living in the same physical space. Before cell phones, Facebook, and Twitter, we insulated ourselves from each other with newspapers and earplugs on the bus or train. Maybe technology is neutral; it just amplifies who we already are.

In his 2011 TEDx Talk, Simon Sinek argues that nothing replaces human contact. He says, “. . . technology is absolutely fantastic for the exchange of information and the exchange of ideas. Technology is absolutely wonderful for speeding transactions. It’s wonderful for resourcing and finding people, but it is terrible for creating human connections. You cannot form trust through the internet.”

Since that talk, human interaction via the internet has been steadily rising as evidenced by increase in social media use. When I emailed people whom I had only ‘met’ on the internet and asked them to each write a 300-word piece on some aspect of motherhood for my blog, I was asking them to trust me with their stories. How could they be sure I would treat their stories with integrity? How could I be sure that they would deliver the stories they said they would?

For me, transactional trust began by examining their digital footprint—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or blog profiles, and the writing on their blogs. I suspect the converse is true for them too and that having mutual digital friends played a part. Working together to polish stories necessitated questions about word choice and sentence structure, which fostered meaningful connection. It was humbling to hear their backstories.

In the end, you read the finished story, and all our worlds became smaller because story mirrors life and life mirrors story. Every story on your phone or tablet or laptop was an invitation to trust and an opportunity to forge connection.

Writing can create empathy and establish credibility. If trust is a function of the part of the brain that has no capacity for language, causing people to look at empirical evidence and still say, “Something doesn’t feel right,” then some kind of digital intuition is vital to navigate the future because we are using technology to form human connection after all.

I agree that nothing replaces human contact; nothing should. However, until I meet you in person, I hope technology continues to connect us through words.

I cannot thank you enough for knitting your heart with ours as we shared what motherhood has meant to us this past six weeks.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

p.s. Thank you Ozoz, Afi, Eileen, Elaine, Taye, Yvonne, Joxy, Brina, Unathi, and Tamkara!

 

Photo Credit: Kaboompics/ http://pixabay.com/en/technology-laptop-keyboard-computer-791029/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Let’s Just Agree to Disagree

And there it was again at the end of a well-written piece by an African-American about how his trip to Africa changed his worldview; the insults and tacky comments. I did not agree with what in my opinion were romanticized notions of Africa, and I intended to say so. I scanned the piece for points of agreement to acknowledge, so I could begin commenting. However, the vitriol in the comment section from those who agreed and disagreed, whether with the post or the ensuing comments, put me off. It would not be easy to defend myself from people like sixpackpower and beautifulbetsy. Moreover, my gravatar is a photo of me my boss would recognize and my name is Timi Yeseibo.

Is anonymity on the web like mob action? Normal people abandoning good sense to loot, rape, devalue, to the beat of crazy songs sung by thousands high on hysteria like LSD? Does an IP-address unshackle responsibility from freedom?

 

dignity&anonymity

Beyond anonymity as gasoline for cyberthuggery, in a world of six billion people how can we all agree? Someone said, if only everyone were like me. I say no. Biko, do not populate the world with more people like me—do you know how boring I am? Our differences are not to be feared, but harnessed. You stretch my thinking and make me re-examine what I believe. In the end, we may find common ground, or you remain on the right and I on the left, all with respect. Can we just learn how to agree to disagree? Must web discussions on politics, sports, entertainment, religion, in other words, life, bring out the devil in us?

Sadly, some websites promote these kinds of verbal boxing matches and just as in ancient Rome, people troop in for a good fight, to watch gladiators at work. At its worst bystanders careen into the ring and die.

Our challenge is to find the compassion for others that we want them to have for us. That is emotional correctness. – Sally Kohn1

A few days ago, I read an engaging post advocating several candidates for political office in the 2015 Nigerian elections. To broaden my knowledge, I sought out opinions in the comment section. Two brilliant minds with opposing views held my attention. As the comment thread lengthened, their commentary lost substance and devolved into name calling as if their intellect had come to a full stop. When commenter one accused commenter two of shouting in capitals, commenter two defended himself by pointing out that his magnanimity was on behalf of the visually challenged.

 

turn off caps

I laughed until I belly-fulled, then navigated to a less popular political website, where comments are permanently closed, as if to say, “Read, finish, carry your trouble and go!”

 

 

comment moderation

Hieroglyphic symbols may have sufficed eons ago, but since the web is predominantly text-based, our ability to decipher tone, mood, and body language is limited. Emoticons only go so far.

After trading points for a while, a friend and I deadlocked on the value of prayer. He said, “Let’s just agree to disagree.” I nodded although I thought a couple more points would push him to my side and a consensus. His hands, folded across his chest, told a different story.  If he had written, let’s agree to disagree, in the comment section and put a smiley at the end, would I have stopped?

 

 

Let's agree to disagree

 

Having a quick wit and a repertoire of words at my disposal meant as my mother used to say, before you talk one, Timi has talked three, oya, go and study law, that is, winning arguments mattered more than winning hearts. Here’s something I’m learning that has lost me several arguments, but gained me friends or acquaintances and kept the discussion open longer: let the other person save face. Argue passionately for what you believe to be right—strip your “opponent” of logic, but leave his dignity intact. The converse is true, save your own face, don’t comment, even when you are right—walk away with dignity.

Despite our best efforts, we may be misunderstood because people read and process through filters. It helps to first suspend judgement and then seek to understand.

Finally, if you must insult me, if my post or comment inspires your disdain then confound me with your intelligence, charm me with savoir faire. At least do it with style.

 

@frankdefreak

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

1. “Sally Kohn: Let’s try emotional correctness” YouTube video, 4:25, posted by “TedTalks,” on Dec 4, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCJTV5KaJJc

 

Photo credit: © Francis Otuogbai on Twitter: @frankdfreak (used with permission)

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.