Social media is not always a source of news
But it’s always a curator.
Interestingly, and originally, The Social Network was not a forum, or place, where you expected to find Big News articles and videos. Instead, it was a place that, almost exclusively, captured the written and pictorial expressions of individual people. It altered your judgement of what was authentic, as opposed to, for example, a well crafted corporate-like message post. Traditional Big Media would have, especially in those early days 10+ years ago, the stench of artificial and fake, if it was posted on The Social Network, as it was watered down and diluted, filtered and refined. Social media was all raw.
Now, it would seem that the division between social media, which enables “users to create and share content or to participate in social networking”1, and traditional media, which can be collectively understood to be the main means of mass communications, like broadcasting or publishing, have disappeared. Thus, social media has already become a means of mass communication.
The Social Network has become The Mediated Network.
Big News had resided on television, within particular channels, unable to directly make contact with someone who was watching some thing on some other channel. It then built channels, or websites, on the internet. Then, proprietary channel apps on the mobile device, and further spreading into the news feeds of social media apps, as visual and textual posts. Social media is where, seemingly, many people spend their time, focus and attention. Thus, Big News had already expanded its reach.
Big News artfully crafts and produces the content, and mass distributes it, or ‘shares’ it, most likely for a price, on social media. Thus Big News, has generally, had greater influence on social media users. Their post is able to reach people who are not their target audience. They do so directly through the smartphone screen via the main channel, the scrolling newsfeed. On which their posts are actually a form of advertisement, whether directly or indirectly, since they are designed to pull you into becoming a new subscriber. It’s about impressions. Thus, Big News is certainly capable of influencing social media users. Are Big News Networks incentivized to get you to ‘click’ or ‘view’?
Is the newsfeed a hypercompetitive arena in which posts scream for your attention? Is fake, or conspiratorial news, more appealing, more likely to make impressions, to go viral, more likely to make you ‘click’? Is the influence ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Does it depend on who is judging? Or, does it depend on who is doing the influencing? It is complex, indeed.
A post can be influential, but it could be like a football when you drop it on the ground. Meaning that a post can be influential, but not in the way it was intended to be. For example, a Big News post may have the message to vote Blue, but instead, a large number of people consisting of a plurality of personalities, demographics, thoughts, beliefs and experiences, vote Red. And there is no exact and true explanation, as to the cause of the voting result, for which can be painted across an entire population of voters in uniform fashion.
The ignorance of the fact that predictive polling, based on restrictive mathematical formulas, outdated, flawed and heavily biased assumptions, cannot accurately encapsulate and model the total complexity that is life, and people’s behavior, results in a chaotic aftermath of explanations for ‘what went wrong’.
This is a kind of Contradiction and Complexity, whereby predictive models are truly unable to capture the many variables that impact the way a human being imagines the world, thinks, and behaves. And it this inability to predict via models is not limited to people, but also with respect to nature. All of which is expected since we live in Postnormal Times, a concept outlined by Ziauddin Sardar in a paper published in 2010. It is a time during which we are in an age of the 3 C’s of Complexity, Chaos, and Contradictions.
Further adding to the complexity, although Big Media is, in reality, one particular type of user who will continue to mass produce and mass distribute their refined and crafted messages, there will be plenty of other users who can also use the platform to do their own mass communications at varying effectiveness. It is, once again, Complex, Chaotic and Contradictory, like “How the One Pound Fish Man Became a Political Jingle Writer“.