In This Time Of Techlash, It's Important To Remember That Sometimes Social Media Is Actually Good

from the quite-often-in-fact dept

It feels like pretty much every day there's some sort of new "techlash" story, about how awful social media is, about how it's dragging down democracy, destroying lives, and that we'd all be better off without it. We've been arguing for quite some time now that while there are real issues of concern about social media, most of the narrative is exaggerated to downright misleading. So it's actually surprising, but nice, to see the NY Times (which has been among the most vocal cheerleaders of the "internet is bad" narrative) have an excellent opinion piece by Sarah Jackson outlining how Twitter, in particular, has "made us better."

Jackson has recently co-authored a book, #HashtagActivism that details what a wonder Twitter has been for traditionally marginalized groups. It has allowed them to communicate, to organize, and to bring their messages into the mainstream.

We found that movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, while they had pre-Twitter origins, were pushed into mainstream consciousness by networks of ordinary people sharing firsthand stories, making demands and developing shared political narratives on the site. Without Twitter, these campaigns for race and gender justice would still exist, but they wouldn’t have nearly the same momentum.

The short op-ed highlights numerous stories that likely would not have received the attention they did without Twitter. Indeed, despite all the people who mock the "internet utopians," it certainly looks like the idea of tearing down gatekeepers and giving a voice to all were ideas that worked for many communities:

Twitter users have disrupted a media landscape where gatekeepers — in an industry that has always fallen short when it comes to race and gender diversity — were for too long solely responsible for setting the agenda of what we talked about as a country. While most Americans do not have Twitter accounts, journalists and politicians often do, and they have turned heavily in the past decade to the activists, scholars and people of color on Twitter to inform their coverage and policies. When they haven’t done so, these communities have responded resoundingly online. And America has listened.

Twitter has fundamentally altered the ways many communities interact with the media, as users feel empowered to challenge harmful framing. “I think the presence of Asian-Americans on Twitter has actually really showed journalists, editors and people in general in the newsroom how it is important to cover Asian-American issues,” one user told my colleagues and me in an interview for a report published by the Knight Foundation. “With Twitter, you can call out a publication if they mess up, or if they don’t cover certain topics. Now there’s accountability.”

Yes, the same tools can (and sometimes are) abused, but the point we keep trying to make here is that we shouldn't throw out the tools that do so much good just because sometimes they are abused. It's nice to see at least some acknowledging this.

Filed Under: activism, connections, disenfranchised, social media, voices


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  • icon
    Thad (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 8:51am

    #HashtagActivism

    "Hashtag hashtag activism"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Norahc (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:05am

      Re:

      They've crossed the hashtags....never cross the hashtags.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      B#bvi#us, 2 Jan 2020 @ 3:31pm

      Re: "Hashtag hashtag activism"?

      Yes. Absolutely.

      And you can buy the book with cash you got from the ATM machine , using your PIN number.

      Also, are you concerned that the title of the book uses more than the necessary hashtags?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Herr Kules, 2 Jan 2020 @ 8:53pm

        Re: Re: "Hashtag hashtag activism"?

        Aww. I'd rather get it in PDF format to view on my LCD display.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          B#bvi#us, 3 Jan 2020 @ 4:51am

          Re: Re: Re: "Hashtag hashtag activism"?

          "PDF format to view on my LCD display."

          Will you be using RAM memory on your CPU unit, or will it be on DVD disk, LAN network, or USB bus? Are you watching via GUI interface or as part of an RPG game? And do you have a GPL license, or is this a DOS system?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 7:36am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: "Hashtag hashtag activism"?

            OK, knock it off, before I report you to the Department of Redundancy Department!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 5:26am

        Re: Re: "Hashtag hashtag activism"?

        Gaah! You got there before I did, B#bvi#us.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sehlat (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 9:18am

    Every tool has two sides.

    That pretty much says it all. Example: Guns can be used to defend. On the other hand...

    The same thing goes for every tool from rocks to everything else humanity has ever built or done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 3 Jan 2020 @ 7:57pm

      Re: Every tool has two sides.

      A shield defends.
      A gun doesn't defend it can only attack.
      Defending by attacking isn't really defense.
      It's just two guys attempting to fill each other with holes and the faster and more accurate one wins.

      Mind you sometimes a hammer is just a hammer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Jan 2020 @ 4:55am

        Re: Re: Every tool has two sides.

        A shield defends.
        A gun doesn't defend it can only attack.

        As demonstrated by history, a shield is only useful when coupled with an offensive weapon, and/or used against projectiles while closing for an attack. If you only have a shield, an attacker can close to where they can reach round it with a weapon, or move it out of their way.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 8 Jan 2020 @ 6:52am

          Re: Re: Re: Every tool has two sides.

          "As demonstrated by history, a shield is only useful when coupled with an offensive weapon, and/or used against projectiles while closing for an attack."

          err. Actually, history shows something completely different. Shields are, essentially, hefty implements of war with the side benefit of being wide enough to parry blows and catch arrows.

          Their main drawback is range and penetration. But you can say that about a mace or sword as well in an age where the cheapest and easiest weapon to arm yourself with was a boarspear.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Easy Peezy, 3 Jan 2020 @ 10:52pm

      Re: Every tool has two sides.

      FBI reports more people are more likely to be killed by hammers than guns .....

      https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/08/11/fbi-more-people-killed-hammers-clubs-rifles-kind/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 9:50am

    Social media can be a force for good — but that all depends on how one uses it. For example: a few suggestions for improving the Twitter experience. (The “turn off retweets” thing is one I’ve stuck with for a while and it really does do wonders for my feed.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2020 @ 9:57am

    Has Mike done lost his mind? Social Media is never good. I guess good old Mike Masnick believes that it's okay for these Social Media sites, which are all liberal, for engaging in censorship and violation of free speech rights under the constitution.

    For a website like Techdirt to claim to fight for fair copyright use, free speech and freedom from illegal searches that I guess now Mike Masnick support censorship and violating the free speech rights of anyone who doesn't agree with him.

    Twitter, Facebook and many other services routinely ban conservatives whenever Cancel Culture screams "racist" without proof. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Paypal and many online services routinely engage in Censorship and violation of everyone's free speech under the U.S. Constitution.

    Perhaps Mike and Techdirt should fight for everyone's rights, not just people and organizations that agree with you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:07am

      Re:

      Is this satire?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:08am

      Social media companies aren’t “liberal”. At best, they’re centrist. Why else would they bend over backwards to please and appease pissed-off conservatives whenever they toss their ire at social media companies? And last I heard, Mastodon had a recent influx of users from India and Spain because Twitter had banned leftist voices from those countries.

      Also: someone being banned from or shadowbanned on a social media site doesn’t deprive them of any First Amendment rights. Twitter can ban you from Twitter, but it can’t ban you from Facebook or a Mastodon instance. And such a ban doesn’t count as censorship, either. Twitter can’t stop you from reposting elsewhere speech that you first posted on Twitter.

      Oh, and one more thing: Even if you could prove a political bias from a social media company, that doesn’t mean shit. Twitter isn’t legally, morally, or ethically obligated to be “neutral” towards political speech. It could ban right-wing bullshit right now and you’d have no legal recourse because Twitter isn’t a public utility or a publicly-owned business.

      You want a non-leftist social media experience? Gab is still open. I suggest going there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 5:29am

        Re:

        Stephen, the "P****d off Conservatives" are actually right wing nut jobs pretending to be conservative. Their favourite thing is whingeing about bias for those outlets that don't slavishly repeat what they say without question. They're not worth taking seriously. I just file them under "Liars" and leave them to it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          bhull242 (profile), 10 Jan 2020 @ 12:43am

          Re: Re:

          Sorry if this sounds like I’m otherwording you, but are you saying that they’re ultraconservatives pretending to be more mainstream conservative? I’m genuinely asking.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      Minus three points for lack of /s
      I give it a B+

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Glen, 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:11am

      Re:

      Please tell me what conservative ideal gets the conservatives banned? Lowering taxes? Smaller government?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:13am

      Re:

      By conservative do you mean the religious right? If they get the power that they want, they will make the Taliban look like moderates.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2020 @ 4:48pm

      Re:

      Nice to see you'll still be a douchenozzle in 2020, Herrick.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:04am

    Perhaps Mike and Techdirt should fight for everyone's rights, not just people and organizations that agree with you.

    So instead of fighting for what they believe in they should fight for what you believe in?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:42am

      Re:

      Never mind that, the premise that Techdirt only fights for the rights of "people and organizations that agree with" them is absurd and trivially disproven.

      Techdirt routinely stands up for the rights of everyone from paparazzi to heroin dealers. They've criticized both Trump and AOC for blocking Twitter accounts. Christ, just in the past five minutes they put up a post that concerns an overbroad revenge porn law being overturned.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Norahc (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:48am

        Re: Re:

        But those aren't the rights the AC wants fought for.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Thad (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 12:07pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Almost as if the AC is being disingenuous and arguing in bad faith.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2020 @ 12:58pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          No, they demand an unassailable privilege in every context, not rights. That's their whole problem.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Jan 2020 @ 1:16am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "But those aren't the rights the AC wants fought for."

          Given the gist of the AC's message I think we have an inkling who's behind it. If it looks like bobmail and smells like Bobmail, then pot odds are good it's that lamentable sack of horse shit we all know as the poster-formerly-known-as-out-of-the-blue. Or Jhon.

          In which case we know what he wants. Anyone who contradicts him hauled off in chains while the big bad internet goes away in favor of tried-and-proven 18th century technology where human rights and mass communications aren't a thing anymore.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:26am

    Hmmm

    #Hashtivism

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 2 Jan 2020 @ 10:28am

    Hmmmmmmm

    Hashtivism

    ;]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2020 @ 11:51am

    I'd bet a book on the ways social media is bad would be a lot thicker.

    Chapter 1: Myanmar

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2020 @ 12:04pm

      Re:

      Social media is neither good or bad, but the ways that people use it can be either, or somewhere in the middle.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2020 @ 3:21pm

        Re: Re:

        I agree that the concept of social media does not inherently have a moral alignment.

        However I would argue that some social media companies may have stains on their past (and people wouldn't be totally paranoid to wonder what else they have in their closets). But that's not really unique to social media (or even companies... it's kinda a human thing).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 7:41am

        Re: Re:

        When looking at something that "is neither good or bad, but can be used for both", the only real criterion is to look at how it's used. Is it used more for good, or for bad, and by how much?

        By this measure, social media is a plague on society; what little good it does is massively outweighed by the harms it causes. It's not that it does no good; it's that the good it does is irrelevant in the face of the overwhelming weight of evil it enables.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 8:49am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Social media is not the cause of the bad, people are the cause of the bad, and will organize to do bad things by whatever means are available. Just look at all the genocides that have happened in Africa despite poor communication systems.

          Blaming the tool is a way of no facing the reality that some people are bad, and a lot are easily led by bad people.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2020 @ 12:26pm

    Social media can be used by anyone, of any race,or minority,
    tv networks make program,s for mass appeal,
    also many of the creators are white, male, middle class ,so the art created tends to limited to a certain view point .
    Also tv tends to be slanted towards big corporations and companys ,thats where most of their income ,advertising comes from.so many forums and websites give voice to diverse communitys that would be too small or
    too political to appeal to mass media .

    Yes social media can be used for fake news or to spread extreme opinions .
    when everyone has a voice some of those people will be stupid,ignorant
    or racist .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jan 2020 @ 5:29am

    Techlash Astroturfed

    I try to be mindful of my own biases and bubbles but the whole "Techlash" feels very artificial and suspiciously targetted. You are telling me that the repeated most hated Company in America winner Comcast isn't on the list?

    That throughly ignorant definition of "Monopoly" and the stream of hit pieces make it hard for me to take seriously as #walkaway where Republicians and Russians claim to be leaving the Democratic party over it not being bigotted enough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Irv Rubin, 3 Jan 2020 @ 9:37am

    This is what a delusional narrative IS:
    re: NY Times (which has been among the most vocal cheerleaders of the "internet is bad" narrative)

    NYT is clearly just “deep state narrative, witht little to none actual reader feedback.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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