Twittersphere: The NEW News

No one understands how hesitant I was to title this post what it is. You have to understand, we, as a generation have been conditioned to believe that twitter is for fun, casual, and NEVER reputable. Imagine the world’s disbelief when the greatest political debate platform wasn’t a town hall in a city ripe for tourism and money making, but it was actually none other than twitter. I know what you’re thinking. Are we really in a place in society where our political leaders are engaging in similar social media feuds that our celebrities made famous? Are our political leaders and celebrities becoming the same people? (Of course they are. Ask Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

A 2011 Clay Shirky foresaw social media influence in current events. “The idea that media, from the Voice of America to samizdat, play a supporting role in social change by strengthening the public sphere echoes the historical role of the printing press.” (Shirky, The Political Power of Social Media, 6) So if  we as a society have not completely disregarded the legitimacy of our politicians who engage in twitter debates [and instead, we elect them] then why have we not regarded twitter as a reputable research platform where literal history is being made every day?

It’s also Clay Shirky who recognizes, however, that our progression as a society to be more apt towards twitter and other social media platforms as reputable sources is limited by our ability to communicate cross-cultural ideals and have a “single community” social media presence. In his 2002 “Communities, Audiences, and Scales“ “With such software,the obvious question is “Can we get the best of both worlds? Can we have a medium that spreads messages to a large audience, but also allows all the members of that audience to engage with one another like a single community?”(Shirky, Communities, Audiences, and Scales) The answer seems to be”No.”” Shirky talks about the difference between an audience and a community and how we struggle with connections online because we can’t truly connect with each other in the way a community needs to, therefore our messages don’t reach people in an effective way. Since we cannot reach each other in a community aspect, we cannot connect. This limits the depth of social media connectivity and therefore we cannot explore the full potential of social media transforming them from shallow communication portals, to reputable in depth communication channels.

In efforts to take twitter beyond the threshold of just another social media platform, we have to acknowledge its limited audience. Because twitter is a free speech medium of sorts, it’s banned in many countries which allows mainstream news outlets to take the lead in coverage and access. “Overall, mainstream media appears to have more even coverage, with less clustering around major cities” (Mapping the Global Twitter Heartbeat, Twitter versus mainstream news media.) With Twitter really coming into it’s prime as a social media platform, we have to recognize it’s not prominent on accessibility the way traditional news coverage is which goes back to our inability to reach each other to make twitter more effective.

So what will it take to verify twitter? We have to acknowledge the evolution of news media. If our politicians can utilize the platform to discuss matters of the country, we should be able to take our news from the site. Information falls directly from the mouths, or the hands, of the people we are reporting on. Next we address the communication gap and accessibility for all people across the globe in efforts to take the Twittersphere from an audience, to a community. If we make these changes, we can evolve how twitter is viewed and maybe, how social media is used in future elections. (Social media was a mess due to the this being the first election social media was utilized in this way. Traditions have to start somewhere!)Twitter-South-Africa-Social-Network-Social-Channel-Social-Media

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The Modern Cyborg: McLuhan Today

Cyborg is derived from the 2 English words cyber and organism. Google describes a cyborg as “a fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.” When I was growing up, Cyborg was my favorite team member of the Teen Titans, and I always wondered how long would it take for society to be able to make me a cyborg so I could be just like him. According to McLuhan, we’re already there and we’ve been there for a while now. I don’t mean that in medieval Europe, people were running around with half their bodies made out of technology. However, since then, and maybe even before that, technology has been evolving human ability from the way we talk, to the way we work, cook, sleep, and everything in between.

Bandura taught us that our aptitude for technology, like most things, is created through social cognitive theory. We learn through observation and we  improve self-efficacy by doing over and over again. McLuhan looks at media/technology as the main component of our evolving society. McLuhan shows us that technology has been the driving factor in the development of human ability and interaction. Technology isn’t just a machine we use, it becomes a part of us, and extension of ourselves, integrating itself into every aspect of our life and changing what traditional looks at. For proof of this, you can look at things like radio and tv which are late 19th century/early 20th century inventions that completely revolutionized how we see and hear the world. However, those born and raised in the late 20th century/early 21st century will be raised in a world where radio and tv are relatively prehistoric and the seeing and hearing experience has been propelled into high definition music and video streaming applications that fit cozily on a mobile phone.

Yes, in Today’s society, we have redefined the harmony between technology and human beings. What was once a fantismal concept of a majority robot and part human being, is now a normal human being with the ability to enhance their sensory input/output through technology in their lives that have become second nature. In today’s society, it’s important to note that technology has become the buffer for traditional communication, and according to McLuhan, this is the new traditional. Having a cellphone was just the start, and for the fact, so was texting. Now popular social media platforms have become the primary means of communication between multitudes of individuals. Your profile is no longer a hobby, but has evolved into your social media presence. Instagram and Twitter accounts are being asked for during job interviews. You don’t have to talk on the phone to order food anymore, instead technology has evolved so much that you can have door to door grocery and meal delivery with just the push of a couple buttons.

The ability to live and survive is being compacted into these tiny  devices that we grab off of our side tables and dressers without even thinking of. When my generation were hitting their early teens, we were heckled for being so attached to our mobile devices, but now, members of society who don’t own one are closer to off the grid than on.  Continuing to hound “millennials” about excessive technology use is futile because the next generation is inherently plugged into the world with the amount of technology in society now. What’s normal and traditional will continue to be revolutionized by new technological advances and we, as a society, will continue to be the new Cyborgs.

Society vs. Self-Efficacy: The Box Theory

Okay, so the first disclaimer is that I’m not a psychologist, but naming my opinion on how Society limits our view of Self-Efficacy in relation to Social Cognitive Theory “The Box Theory” makes me feel pretty great. This is definitely a thought piece on the relationship between our environment set by pop culture, the US Government, the current political climate, etc. and our ability to recognize our potential and strive for greater heights.

 

Let’s start with the basics. As an African-American male, I’ve been taught growing up that no matter what happens to me, where I come from, who tries to bring me down, I always have to be better than my environment to improve my environment. As an individual, I observed the actions of my parents: I watched my mom hold my family together and strive towards higher levels of education to increase her ability to provide for her family and in turn herself. I watched my father make many mistakes and completely turn his life around to become reliable and a provider for our family, while following the example of my mother, achieve higher education, and level up in his profession. This was the behavior I observed, imitated, and are currently in the process of executing.

 

I am not ashamed to be labeled a millennial but I am a huge advocate for labels no being the equivalent to stereotypes. I view the term “millennial” as a classification, not necessarily as a way of life.  I am more apt to technology than most, I text quickly, I use google for everything, but none of these things hinder my growth as  a human being or limit my ability to grow beyond what the media has tried to limit me to. There you have it. I said it. I believe today’s society tries to limit our Self-Efficacy to fit the labels they’ve created. This is my box theory.

 

As I continue, I understand that this is starting to feel a little conspiracy-theory-ish, but stick with me. Social Cognitive Theory informs us that human behavior is learned and can be changed through cognitive observation, empowered models, beneficial environments, etc. Well in today’s society, our models are starting to evolve into similar people. Our celebrities and politicians, once very separate fields, have merged. Our environment is evolving, and the dreams we are being sold are evolving too. Labels are becoming more relevant than ever and are starting to seriously limit the mind’s scope of what we as individuals can and cannot do. In other words, Self-Efficacy is there but is still limited to our labels. Society is putting us in boxes, and telling us to dream inside of them.

 

Sticking with my own experiences, representation in popular culture, media, politics, government occupations, etc. is very important to me. As an African American Male, I want to be able to see myself in movies, but also be able to see myself running the country. It was important to have models like Barack Obama flourish and never falter to society’s negativity, while also seeing the likes of Mahershala Ali, Jordan Peele, Drake, etc. take the media by storm, succeeding in their perspective areas. While black people have been fighting the good fight of representation for a very long time, we are still fighting, alongside latinos, asians, the LGBT community, women, and so many others. My issue lies in the fact that I now see a trend that media is limiting the popularization of certain models in certain areas that allow us to dream, but only in a certain direction/lane, thus emphasizing a box we’re to stay in.

 

I believe an even smaller box is being enforced on younger generations. Even if the representation is there, my generation, and the generations that follow see these things, begin to work for them, and then get stuck in a vicious cycle surrounding money. We see people drop everything to succeed but are faced with the reality that without money, there’s no way you’ll make it. So we work and go after occupations that we have to struggle in before we can rise and make the big bucks, but society sells us the dream big, go big, risk everything, and succeed model. Still confused? Let me break it down for you.

 

I went to a Creative and Performing Arts middle and high school. They were public schools with arts magnet programs, allowing students to have regular academics coupled with rigorous studies in an art form of their choosing. I studied musical theater in middle school and vocal/voice in high school. I’ve always dreamed of making it big, whether that be on a big stage selling out concerts, or on broadway, selling out shows. The school advocated for self-efficacy. We practiced day and night, went to audition after audition, built repertoires that spanned from german to latin to italian to spanish to hebrew, and we believed in ourselves and each other. When I left my Pittsburgh CAPA, I was told by so many people in “Real-World Jobs” that my dreams just weren’t realistic. My environment shifted and I tried to become a lawyer. That was a failed dream (although now I feel like I’m going after a real world occupations I love.) We as a society have brilliant artists all over the world, but we are limiting our future by forcing younger generations to conform and aim their hardwork and dedication, their self-efficacy in a direction.

 

After typing this, I thought to myself, “can the box be broken?” The answer is an obvious yes. People do it every day. Ashton Sanders, 21 dropped out of school to film an independent movie and that movie went on to win an Oscar for best picture while his costar, Jharrel Jerome, was only 17 at the beginning of filming. But these instances are becoming more rare, because, also, as a society we are putting way too much emphasis on money. If we continue to go down this road, Money will become the biggest influencer on our cognitive ability to believe we are able to succeed. Many would argue we are already too far gone. I believe that there is still a possibility to end this cycle, and that a generation will stand up for dreams and hard-work coexisting hand in hand.