Technology + social media diminish freedom of speech through trends and popular opinion
Throughout the reading of Jonathan Franzen’s article, What’s Wrong With the Modern World, I felt his main emotions involved fear for the future regarding technology and social media, as well as disgust at the loss of humans’ ability to function without these technologies. He left the reader with a sense of inescapable doom, where technology is the thing leading us all toward a large-scale disaster. Truthfully, the article stimulated some personal fears regarding the future of the economy and our quality of life. Franzen pointed out some truly disturbing facts about the general population and its dependence on computing devices/systems such as, cell phones, smart phones, tablets, 4G, PCs and Macs, even social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). I would like to focus on his statements and opinions of what’s “cool,” or “hip” and relate that to social media because I think it all goes hand in hand. Social media relies hugely on trends, judgment and popularity (who got the most likes and retweets, or who has the coolest insights).
Franzen made many references in the beginning portion of the article regarding the competition and comparison of Mac and PC. Basically, the huge “cool” factor of Mac products and marketing, versus the “clunky,” or “unsophisticated” PC. I found it interesting that Franzen spoke so highly of Mac computers, but decided that the simplicity and somewhat flawed system of a classic PC computer gave his work a sobering effect. He mentions, “Simply using a Mac Air, experiencing the elegant design of its hardware and software, is a pleasure in itself.” Followed by, “the PC ‘sobers’ what you’re doing; it allows you to see it unadorned” (Franzen).
I relate this to social media for many reasons. As we discussed earlier in the class, there is a huge problem with our inability to express true opinions on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. For some reason, everyone tries very hard to adhere to the “cool” factor, and to make sure no one criticizes his or her statement about something others may disagree with. This reminds me of a scenario Franzen discusses where people feel much better about themselves and their work while using a stylish Mac product. And on the other hand, PC users feel like they aren’t taken as seriously, or like their work has to rely on its content rather than the sleek appearance of the computer to make it look better. In general, onlookers don’t take people who use PCs as seriously. This concept is comparable to political opinions posted to Facebook. I say this because there are numerous instances where someone comments on a political topic and soon gets bombarded with hateful, strongly argumentative or insulting responses (Mitchell). Everyone’s opinion of that person changes simply because of his or her political view. That person’s political views define whether or not they are “cool.”
The way I’ve seen it on my newsfeed, unrelated to my personal political standpoint, liberal/democratic views are the cool Macs and conservative/republican views represent clunky old PCs. Facebook makes an honest effort to prevent personal attacks and opinion-based feuds with its “Community Standards” page by stating, “While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition” (Facebook). However, users make little effort to listen.
“Facebook Community Standards.” Facebook. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2013. <https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards>.
Franzen, Jonathan. “Jonathan Franzen: What’s Wrong with the Modern World.” The Guardian. N.p., 13 Sept. 2013. Web. 21 Sept. 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/13/jonathan-franzen-wrong-modern-world>.
Mitchell, Chase. “An Honest Political Argument.” CollegeHumor. N.p., 31 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 Sept. 2013. <http://www.collegehumor.com/article/5996384/an-honest-facebook-political-argument>.
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