Many individuals concur that the introduction of social media has fundamentally changed how people connect and conduct business. It has given people new means of expression and communication. Marginalized groups can now express their opinions and sentiments without being intimidated or subjected to segregation. It has made it possible for people from all walks of life to interact and communicate more readily, cheaply, and freely. Although it has many advantageous qualities, it has also had a negative impact on our society’s advancement. It has entirely undermined our social standards, making it very difficult for people to enjoy direct contact, which was once greatly cherished. It has created a culture of neoliberalism, and self-expression that completely goes beyond our normal understanding of self-expression. It promotes within ourselves an individualistic and competitive identity that prioritizes individual status than a collective approach to our day to day social affairs. People are more attracted to an individual, who through the social media, appears to be successful and well accepted by others. In this article, we will analyze the effect of social media on our self-expression and how it encourages neoliberalism.
The emergence of new technologies, in particular, social media, has promoted neoliberalism in today’s society. Social media has enabled the neoliberal market to thrive because of its ability to create a micro interactive environment. Through social sites like Facebook and Twitter, more and more individuals and corporations find it easy and affordable to market their products and services. The result is a situation whereby there is rampant floatation and ignorance of corporate regulations. People and companies no longer follow the required advertisement procedures, thereby ignoring basic corporate ethics (Marwick 45). The effect is a reduced corporate taxes because, through micro interactive abilities, it becomes easier to reach a wider population without relying on qualified staff or old media platforms like newspapers and television which require much spending and scrutiny from the federal government. Social media also promotes neoliberalism through its ability to privatize public spaces and platforms. Although social media promotes personal well-being and achievement through entrepreneurial freedom and the free market, it also creates an individualistic attitude that erodes human interaction and societal approach that promotes unity and overall economic growth.
In essence, social media has promoted inequality rather than counter it. Through social media, Silicon Valley capitalists have successfully created a status quo that promotes interactions that are measurable, quantifiable, trackable, and more importantly exploitable. It is a critical avenue of free labor, on which most of the social media businesses depend upon ( Marwick 62). For example, when people converse or share content through these sites, they are promoting the advertisement capabilities of other businesses without sharing profit, even though they do the biggest share of advertisement for these corporations. The result is a situation whereby there is exploitation of a lot of individuals in the name of social interaction and free market strategy.
Neoliberalism also creates self-governmentality that in the long run damages human interaction rather than promote it. Social media can collectively govern how we think, and observe life. For example, we create trends that we assume is beneficial or promotes our social standings when in the real sense, we are becoming more and more individualistic.
Apart from promoting neoliberalism, media technology has also enabled us to construct ourselves and identity in ways never envisioned before. To clearly understand the impact of media technology on our identity, we must first acknowledge social identity theory, which suggests that, naturally, every individual strives to enhance or maintain their self-esteem, or simply put, every individual must strive for a positive self-concept (Shapiro 105). Social media has widened our scope and understanding of self-concept, majorly due to its ability to allow us to access information in all its format and from every part of the globe more easily and faster. As a result, the platform has given people the opportunity to move away from real self-identities, making it a global and open understanding people have of themselves.
In previous generations, media messages and social forces influenced people’s self-identities more positively and far much outweighed the negative aspect of social interactions. The situation is completely different with the current generation. Popular culture now defines who we want and should be, thereby leading to people shielding some information that they think is not socially accepted. We no longer express our true self but rather what we think is acceptable to many. Social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter has given us the opportunity to share what we do inaccurately, where we are, and even how old we are, to receive gratification, acceptance or recognition (Shapiro 126). The trend can be related to the social networking theory, whereby people who are close to each other tend to share certain characteristics like dress code or way of thinking. The difference is in the reality of the connection. While previous trends allowed for true connection, social media sites promote elusive connectivity, based on the desire to impress and gain recognition, whatever the cost.
Apart from the negative impact of social media, there are positive attributes directly associated with social media. With the emergence of social media, marginalized groups can now express their feelings freely and without restriction or fear of intimidation or mass retaliation. The platform now gives these marginalized group a better way of connecting to the rest of the world. In the recent years, we have been able to see a lot of these groups emerge. For example, before the introduction of social media platforms, a lot of people never knew of transsexual or transgender groups. They were not accepted by the society, and the popular media houses and platforms, such as magazines and televisions never told their stories. But with the emergence of social networking platforms, these individuals are now more vocal and accepted worldwide. The platform has opened doors for them in ways never imagined before, like the ability to access hospitals that can successfully transform their gender. African Americans and other minority races in the United States have effectively used social media platforms to fight for their rights (Patton, et al 315). Through these sites, it is much easier for these groups to mobilize people towards a certain course. While mainstream media such as television and newspaper might neglect to tell their stories, for fear of losing credibility or market, social media sites offer no such backlash.
But the social media platforms also pose a real danger to these marginalized groups. A lot of people use the sites to bully and abuse the marginalized groups. Because the sites offer micro interactive environments, it is easy to target such groups. There are higher chances today that a person that identifies himself or herself as transgender or gay is more likely to receive direct abuse through these sites. A perfect example is the story of Lizzie Velasquez, who was the subject of social media abuse because of her rear medical condition. There are numerous cases where people commit suicide due to the abuse they get on social media platforms, a worrying trend that stems directly from the ability of these platforms to offer a micro interactive environment for people utilizing them.
Overall, social media has totally altered how humanity interact and conduct business. People no longer rely on popular media such as television and newspaper for information. Social media platforms offer more accessible, cheap, and faster means of communication. Because of its micro interactive capabilities, it has created a neoliberalism system in all spheres of our lives. Socially, we are more inclined to popular culture than individual identity. People strive to create identities that are more acceptable to the general public, rather than what suits them best. The platform also advocates for inequality rather than fight against it. Corporations heavily rely on the platform for free labor, which users cannot directly notify. Apart from the negative aspects of social media platforms, a lot of people have been able to use it positively to their advantage. The platform has widely opened doors for marginalized groups in the society to freely and promptly communicate and air their grievances. Consequently, it remains important that police handle their tasks with utmost profession for the essence of providing community the security it needs.
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Patton, Desmond Upton, et al. “Police took my Homie I Dedicate My Life 2 His Revenge”:
Twitter Tensions Between Gang-Involved Youth and Police in Chicago.” Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment vol. 26, no. 3-4, 2016, pp. 310-324.
Shapiro, Eve. Gender Circuits: Bodies and Identities in a Technological Age. Routledge, 2010.