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12:23 PM

Is it Time to Rid Ourselves Of the Blight of Social Media

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Is it time to abolish social media? So asked Jonathan Crossfield in a recent article in Chief Content Officer magazine circulated by the Content Marketing Institute.

Unfortunately for the abolitionists, Social Media has become part of the fabric of our postmodern existence. We could just as easily abolish nuclear weapons, vulgar music lyrics, or every middle schooler having a personal website.

As Crossfield explains, there is an inherent buzzword feel to the term “social media” which makes disagreement over the meaning of social media likely in the newsroom or marketing department. This should not be unexpected in a technology that has experienced such rapid adoption.

Another issue created by this rapid proliferation of social media is that we focus more on the channel, or the medium, rather than the message.

The traditional media will report that President Trump issued another statement on Twitter, and excoriate his use of language. but rarely do they bother to report the substance of the President’s message.

However, the President’s use of Twitter fits the purpose for which social media was intended. That is to allow users to communicate directly with others. In the President’s case this means directly reaching out to voters without the filter of often-hostile reporters and editors in between them. That is called disintermediation. That is the social aspect of social media. Please see www.ericschwartsman.com for a better understanding of the concept of disintermediation.

So who knows exactly what social media is? To try to answer that question, Crossfield turns to law makers who in their efforts to regulate the technology need to first define it. First up in this exercise in futility is the California legislature, which struggled to differentiate social media from other forms of digital communications.

The Golden State solons defined social media as “photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations”  As Crossfield points out personal photographs of the nature the Supreme Court wrestled with in trying to define pornography stored on a mobile phone would qualify as social media under this definition.

Crossfield has examined a variety of social media policies and finds them similarly lacking in the objectivity necessary for enforceable government policy. These include this attempt by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

“Social media also included all other emerging electronic/digital communication applications.”

That narrows it down.

I was recently reminded of the benefits of social media in my own small home town which was the location of a road rage shooting. Law enforcement agencies credited social media for providing several clues that helped break the case quickly and bring the shooter to justice. The police were able to use the social channels to reach out directly to anyone who had pertinent information about the crime. This was 1 of 3 violent crimes lawmen here were able to solve over the last couple of months by monitoring Twitter and Facebook