I definitely felt the pressure to up my blog-game this week. I enjoyed this topic much more than Topic 1, as I was able to understand how my web use impacts my online privacy. I had a vague understanding about cookies and how websites use them to tailor our online experiences but I never realised how extreme this is.
Brad’s comments were interesting, citing an article about how Snapchat can retrieve your digital media despite claiming all media exchanged on the app is deleted forever. This is a violation of online privacy, seeing as this is not a disclaimer when downloading the app. The report also discusses issues about users using it to exchange sexual messages and images, under the impression they cannot be stored which is worrying.
Many comments on my blog asked about my personal experience. This led me to create the infographic below to easily lay out the footprints I leave.
Carolina questioned what age is it acceptable to begin creating identities, citing a video about parents who create social media accounts for their young teenagers. Although the article by Lenhart I cited reports teenagers are more likely to control their identities, that does not necessarily apply to young teens starting social media for the first time. Therefore, I think it’s actually helpful for parents to assist in setting up accounts as they can help them navigate websites and teach them about digital footprints and how to protect themselves online. If parents don’t do this, it is likely the children will set up accounts anyway and be at risk.
Since Topic 2 was so enlightening about how private our online identities really are, I shall be using precautions other blogs suggested and listed below in order to protect my online identity.
The web is a wonderful thing. It lets us access a pool of knowledge at our fingertips; connect with family and friends on other continents and even order items online for same day delivery. However, with the many amazing benefits of the online world, also come some concerns. Use of the Internet grows exponentially every day and with that, more and more people are leaving digital footprints behind and creating what is called their ‘digital identity’.
An online identity is an identity a user establishes by engaging with the web in online communities and websites. A user can create multiple identities or just one and can also choose whether to fabricate a new online persona or maintain their authentic identity online.
There are many questions raised when it comes to thinking about our online identities, including:
How much do I share online?
Do I have one identity or multiple?
Can I trust someone with multiple identities?
How do I separate my personal and professional identities?
Some research suggests that whilst we can choose whether to have one identity or multiple, it is challenging (Costa and Torres, 2011). Every time we engage with online communities and websites we leave tiny trails behind that gradually build up to create another identity. Identities can be used as a great marketing tool for websites to tailor their content to what they think you’d like best.
Like with all things, there are of course pros and cons to having more than one identity online, explored in the comic below.
Some studies have found that teenagers in particular actively manage their online profiles, both for authenticity but also to edit some parts so to protect personal information from strangers (Lenhart and Madden, 2007). Developments from Goffman’s work also found that people were generally keen to replicate their offline identity online (Bullingham and Vasconcelos, 2013). Although a main benefit of having multiple identities online means remaining anonymous, it has also been found that other online users are less likely to interact with profiles they do not know or trust (Costa and Torres, 2011).
The video below explains online identities in more detail. It claims that there are 3 layers to everyone’s digital identity: public, private and personal and recommends tips in order to protect your identity online such as using separate email addresses.
Prior to beginning the module, I had a little experience in blogging. Previous modules in Politics had asked me to blog on issues related to the course, which I thoroughly enjoyed in contrast to the more monotonous assessment style of essays. However, these earlier blogs really just touched the surface of what WordPress could actually offer me.
My Topic 1 blog on Digital Visitors vs. Residents allowed me to grapple with new features such as commenting, categorising and tagging and further cement my own position as a digital resident. I’d also never really read much about digital engagement and it was really interesting to finally be able to learn some real theories and concepts on the topic.
Scott’s comments allowed me to consider how categorising digital users by their age is simply discriminatory. I do think it is important to not completely rule out age as a factor. It is very common for many people my age to have a completely different experience with the digital world than our older relatives , something that Harriet also discussed on her blog when talking about the differences between how she uses the web and how her dad uses it. However, the discussion with Harriet on her comments helped me to understand that criticism for Prensky’s theories not only came from the seemingly discriminatory nature of age categorisation but also due to his lack of substantial evidence for his arguments.
One thing I would definitely like to build on over the course of the next few weeks is the incorporation of multimedia content. I began with a few self-made diagrams, but I’d really like to begin creating infographics that enhance the written content without just adding more words like I did in figure 1. Overall, I have had a very positive experience of topic 1 and am very much looking forward to beginning topic 2 and developing my skills.
In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries defined their ‘word of the year’ to be Post-truth: an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.
Across many major media outlets, post-truth was sprawled across headlines as the Brexit campaign and the US Presidential campaign for President-elect Donald Trump, utilised the concept to win over voters. There is no doubt that 2016 was a pivotal year for post-truth politics. We saw Michael Gove making the bold assumption that the UK were “sick of experts”; we also saw Trump feed into people’s anger and resentment towards the very same establishment he was born and bred into.
The Brexit campaign appealed to those who so ignorantly over-assumed the extent of the so-called “migrant crisis”, ranting on about how immigrants (ironically many complained about immigrants from outside the EU) were ‘coming over and stealing our jobs’. No one bothered to check the facts. No one bothered to check that in 2010, a mere 3.6% of the UK population comprised of EU immigrants. It was hardly a crisis.
Yet this concept appeared in politics a long time ago. After the events of 9/11, trust in the US government sky-rocketed. The War on Terror was officially declared as many Americans felt the need to immediately deal with terrorism. Once again, no one bothered to check that the chances of being killed in a terrorist attack were around 1 in 20 million; or that you are more likely to be killed by your own furniture then by a terrorist attack. Yet, we don’t see anyone declaring a War on Ikea. The Iraq War became known as one of the greatest intelligence failures in history. Government chose to ignore sources stating there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, though they still chose to invade despite all peaceful options not being exhausted. Despite being a far more violent and horrific event than the British exit of the European Union, the same concept stands.
Post-truth politics began with 9/11 and continued with the Iraq War. The media fed the public sensationalised headlines about terrorism and the public responded with fear and anger and an urgency to do whatever in order to stamp it out. The problem was, is the fighting terrorism with more violence will never end it, only feed the flames. But ultimately, post-truth should not have been the word of the year in 2016, but in 2003.
The exponential rise of social media is undeniable. Year on year, average use continues to increase. It is estimated that the average global user spends 118 minutes on social media every day and has five accounts on various sites. However, young people are estimated to spend as much as four hours a day browsing sites and apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.
The birth of social media brought about a new age of communication and media. It provided platforms for friends and family from all over the world to engage instantly without incurring costly international phone calls or waiting for email replies. In the political realm, it further allowed political representatives to engage with the public and for the public to respond back. Facebook in particular, has played a significant role in allowing everyday citizens to have a political voice. The question is, to what extent can social media sites like Facebook actually help political engagement?
In the UK, falling levels of political engagement have been evident since the 1960s. Voter turnout in General Elections are a very important way of gauging political engagement. Looking at statistics of voter turnout at general elections over the past decades has even led some academics to deem the UK in a type of political crisis. Since the 1960s, we have witnessed a steady decline in turnout on election day, with the occasional variation in 1974 and 1992. In 2001, the voter turnout was the lowest ever recorded statistic since the creation of universal voting, with just over 59%. As a result of this ‘crisis’, many have suggested that social networking sites have the influence to re-engage people, particularly young people with politics and get people voting again.
Movements such as Black Lives Matter have had an unquestionable online presence and events such as Brexit and the current US Elections have encouraged more people to take to social networking sites such as Facebook to share their views and thoughts. A recent study found that 41% of young people aged 15-25 had engaged in some kind of political discussion or activity online, whether this be sharing a video of a debate on Facebook or tweeting an opinion. These individuals are also more likely to vote. Furthermore, Ipsos Mori found that social media has a significant impact on 18-24 year olds, with more than 1/3 of the group stating that content on social media had influenced their voting choices. The incorporation of social media into election campaigns, for example Obama’s Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit and Hillary Clinton setting up a Snapchat, has demonstrated the importance of social media for political engagement. Out of all the $11.4billion political advertising spending in the US, more than half of the $1 billion digital media spending is set aside specifically for social media. In fact, researchers found that over 300,000 more people in the US voted in 2010 elections purely because of a single Facebook message on the day.
All of this leads to the conclusion that social media does in fact encourage political participation, ranging from political discussion online to actually voting. However, it is important to note that the majority of research currently analysing the impact of social media on political engagement focuses on young people, who are increasingly turning to social media as a way of consuming news and opinions, compared to the older generations who may still stick with consuming traditional media such as newspapers and listening to the radio. Moreover, there is a risk of ‘filter bubbles’ within social media, by which a user can block or hide opinions they disagree with, in addition the algorithms imbedded in the sites tailor your experience, so will naturally only show you content you like. This runs a risk of political narrow-mindedness as such, due to the fact that the user may not be open to hearing a spectrum of ideas.