Technological Determinism, as Baym outlines in Personal Connections in the Digital Age, is the idea that technological innovations are inevitable agents of change in which people have little to no power to resist. The Huffington Post’s article “Ignorance No Longer an Option” upholds the opinion that social media platforms are inevitable agents of change, as they have become integrated into our daily lives. Thus, it supports a technologically deterministic view of social media. While it has become somewhat inevitable for our generation to engage in different social media platforms in order to stay up to date, especially in social settings, it is largely due to the way in which we, as a society, have made such heavy use of these networks, not the work of the actual network itself.
The article asserts that “social media is integrated into all aspects of our daily lives,” and not only this, but “getting sucked into the online world is inevitable.” In other words, we live in a world in which we are basically forced to be part of the online world, and social media has become a large part of this online world. As the article points out, this can be beneficial, in that students are no longer forced to consult television programs or newspapers in order to stay up-to-date on both local and national news, but at the same time, because these social media outlets have become a ‘trendy’ way to gain instantaneous information, people often take everything they read for truth, when in reality, everything we read may not be entirely factual. For example, there have been countless incidents of terrorist “threats” that have come about because of certain Tweets or Facebook statuses that were meant to be nothing more than just harmless pranks. The article also implies a technologically deterministic view of social media in suggesting that the demand for instantaneous information automatically prompts us to take what we read for truth. This would imply that these social media sites somehow have the power to present information as automatic fact. This also supports the domestication of social media networks in that it implies that these have become our go-to source for information and news, and we downplay their convenience. At the same time, the author has also domesticated these social media networks in the sense that he assumes that all students have access to them, when it is actually possible that not all students are able to access these platforms at all times.
While the article makes a solid argument, it is still possible to stay informed without a Facebook profile or Twitter account; these platforms just make information more accessible. The article states, “social media was trending, but it was not a vital means of communication. Now, it is.” In other words, the article says it is an inherent quality of these networks that everyone should need to be a part of them in order to stay abreast in what goes on in the media and in the news; however, it is still possible to access this information elsewhere. Newspapers, television, magazines, etc. all provide access to this information, and if anything, may make it easier to weed out what is factual and what isn’t; however, there is definitely a cultural quality to social media that make it socially necessary to be a part of it; it is almost a new sense of community, as is stated in ‘An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube.‘ As the video points out, the formation of these new online communities is based on their interactive nature, making it impossible to be a part of this world without actually immersing yourself in the given social media.
Additionally, social media allows us to establish a new sense of identity. The article shows how Obama, as well as other presidential candidates, use social media platforms to establish a connection with today’s youth, hence creating a well-connected image of themselves. Social media allows anyone to create their own identity, as ‘An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube’ also shows. The video highlights how YouTube empowers users to create their own identity; however, it also warns about the potential for a lack of authenticity, not only in the consistency of said identity, but also in the truthfulness of it. In other words, on YouTube, as well as many other social media platforms, the identity one creates does not necessarily have to be truthful. While face-to-face encounters make it fairly difficult to establish a false identity, social media platforms are just the opposite. Additionally, it is very easy to post false information to social media sites, so, as the article states, always check your sources. Donath also highlights how online communities can lend themselves to potentially dishonest identities, stating, “anonymity encourages irresponsible, hostile behavior.” This is again why it is important to think twice about the information presented in social media. This point highlights another flaw in the technologically deterministic view of social media networks; while they may present untruthful information, it is the work of the individual to accept this misinformation for truth and redistribute it; the technology itself is not necessarily responsible.
While Obama speaking live on Reddit.com is more likely to catch the attention of my generation than a debate shown on the nightly news, it is not to say that this will make political activism inevitable; this simply gives social media networks way too much credit. I will admit that as someone who is not particularly interested in politics, I am more likely to read a 140 character tweet about politics than I am the transcript of a political debate, but I’m certainly not going out of my way to seek out those tweets; therefore, while social media makes information more accessible and may present it in a more desirable way, it doesn’t automatically make us all political geniuses, or masters of any subject for that matter. We may all, for the most part, be engaged in social media in some way, shape or form, but that is by choice, not force.
**I am not sure why all of the fonts and sizes are different, but I can’t figure out how to fix it. If anyone knows how to do this, please let me know!