The concept we’ve discussed in class called “Web 2.0,” drives a lot of what we know to be the internet today. When we look closer at what the theory really means, we can see connections between the concept and current trends in media, as well as in the way we engage online with one another. If we step back from the cacophony of information found on our various digital platforms, and look critically at the way we’ve shaped social media interaction, we can gain some insight about the technology that we’re consuming through new mediums everyday.
The internet’s openness has had some significant effects on the way we engage. One thing on which we all can agree, is that this past election cycle, and the social media climate surrounding it, created some significant rifts in our society. Families and friendships were divided over candidates and issues, and those divisions oftentimes were on full display in the comments section of major social networking sites. The revolution of the internet has allowed us to not only voice our opinions with ease, but it gives us access to large audiences, creating a forum for debate that just increases with the number of sites that we use to connect with one another. In the reading by Alice Marwick, the term “citizen journalism” is described as a result of the new “user-generated content” revolution of the Web 2.0 era. The proliferation of blogs, Twitter, and other sites that allow users to inundate the web with their thoughts have brought us to where we are today: an age where the first thing we think of to solve a problem is getting as many people involved on social media as possible. The best way to do that? A hashtag.
A perfect example of the power that Web 2.0 can have is in the #NoBanNoWall hashtag campaign that social media has taken up in response to executive actions by the new president. People immediately took to online platforms to share messages of support for those affected, and criticism of the effects being seen as a result of the ban.
This new culture of the hashtag that we’ve created for ourselves provides a sort of common area where user-generated content can live and exist in one place. Someone from California can bond with a person feeling similarly just by a hashtag that brings together their content in a single, digital arena. This new ability enhances connectedness to a new degree, because now our content reaches not only our own respective audiences, but it can now move effortlessly across state lines and international borders.
In troubling times where internet users are angry and want to speak out, these hashtags and spaces for commiserating are helpful in the coping process for some people. Stories from children of immigrants have circled the Facebook forums, and in these posts using the hashtag, people can find solace in knowing that there are people out there going through the same thing, and wanting to see the same things they want to see happen.
Despite the benefits of being able traverse large distances using nothing more that the symbol formerly known as ”pound,” there is, of course, the potential for harm from this new development in digital discourse. The “citizen journalism” that we see in this open online space may have its honorable intentions, but in this media climate, the most important issues we’re facing are the propagation of false information and the strengthening of the echo chamber that our newsfeeds create. The personal blogs and websites with alternative facts that are promoted as fact are a grim downside to the openness of the internet, and the access that all people have to it. People are taking advantage of the internet’s democracy, and we have to start thinking about ways that we can combat that without hindering the positives of the connectedness we experience.
I’m in no way an advocate for a censoring of the internet and a reversal of the openness that we see with the Web 2.0 revolution discussed in class. I believe that beautiful, thoughtful and creative things come from the global community we’ve created with online media channels. I do, however, think that our online spaces have to deal with the problems that these “citizen journalists” create. Whether those problems are dealt with by the masses or the platforms themselves, is something that we’ll have to figure out before Web 3.0 hits the web.
Marwick, Alice Emily. Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. New Haven: Yale UP, 2013. Print.