Research Nugget #6


Kessler, E. (2013). Social Media and the Movement of Ideas. European Judaism46(1), 26-35. doi:10.3167/ej.2013.46.01.04

In Edward Kessler’s, Social Media and the Movement of Ideas, the writer talks about the realities of social media and how it has become a crucial part of our everyday lives. However, what the author does is presents how it negatively and beneficially impacted our world, from situations such as the Syria Crisis to Egypt banning there internet for a few days, individuals now realize that social media means power and can foster change for our world.

One of the first ideas that the author touches upon is that social media brings communication but more importantly it brings connection, “enables affiliation, interest group formation and solidarity in new ways; ways that do not conform to existing social groups or geographic locations” (26). Kessler’s words reveals that social media goes a lot deeper than just being a way to share vacation photos or connect with a long lost friend from back in high school, it brings a connection that goes beyond something that we never experienced before. That connection is what brings individuals back and that connection is the reason why there are 1.15 billion Facebook users or more than 75 million Instagramers. Connection is so pivotal because that is what builds relationships, builds networks, and most of all, fills a certain empty space that may not be met through interpersonal communication. However, In, Maria Kalpidou, Ph.D., Dan Costin, M.A., and Jessica Morris, B.A., The Relationship Between Facebook and the Well-Being of Undergraduate College Students, the authors reveal that high levels of emotional loneliness suggests that online interactions actually fail to satisfy one’s need for emotional connections in social interactions. What this suggests is that sure, social media sites foster connection but in terms of deep emotional connection that every human being craves, it still seems to lack in that.

“The ‘one-way conversation’ is becoming the norm and examples of genuine public dialogue have diminished significantly. It is my view that anonymity is a key part of a process of debilitation which harms society. Psychologists have applied the Jungian term, ‘Individuation’, which refers to the concealment of identities when social norms are withdrawn. Individuation occurs when we sit behind the wheel of a car and abuse the driver in front/behind of us; it is what motivates football supporters to shout abuse or hatred at the opposition team and its fans, and/or the referee. And it is why under the cover of an alias – surrounded by ‘virtual strangers’ – conventionally restrained individuals act in a different manner than in the real world”.

What the author is suggesting here is that interpersonal communication or face to face interaction is diminishing, rather what is becoming the norm for society is this idea of instant messaging or using social media as more of a means to communicate to one another our ideas and thoughts. Although this fosters and facilitates creativity, what this also does is creates “Individuation” which blurs the line between real friendships and relationships and people we think we know/virtual strangers. This particular passage also reveals that these same “virtual strangers” is who we are trying to impress and gain acceptance from which is ironic in itself. But why do individuals find themselves

The author also discusses the concept “disinhibition” which is when individuals post comments or photos that they would not normally say or do in the real “face-to-face” setting. This is interesting because on one hand in a way social media brings upon confidence to the point where individuals are not afraid to be opinionated and stand for what they believe. However, on the other hand, not many can say that they could be the same way in real face-to-face conversations. It is interesting because it again, blurs the line between reality and the cyber world. Social media seems to make the line between reality and the dream world hard to differentiate, as again, we take a look at Jodie Gummow’s, “7 Telltale Signs Social Media Is Killing Your Self-Esteem”, the author presents 7 signs that explain the realities of what social media can cause in one’s life. In one example, Gummow explains that our comparing and contrasting nature leaves us taking everything at face value, especially when we see pictures of others, especially on sites such as Instagram; thus, leading to low self-esteem.

What “Disinhibition” also brings is harsh criticism, threats, anger, and hatred among anything someone posts or comments and with this, it also brings upon depression, sadness, and makes social media not so much of an “escape” for some anymore.

However, social media is not the problem here, people are the problem which lead me to discover this passage:

“Perhaps the greatest sense of empowerment has come through the ability to use cyberspace as a location for doing what might not otherwise be done in reality: assemble to discuss ideas, concerns and complaints, and to share frustrations, while also providing the social networking opportunity to unite, strategies and plan for change. In cyberspace, the social restrictions that exist in reality in some places—such as gender segregation—disappear, providing groups of people who might otherwise never meet and converse with the opportunity to connect and recognize what they share in common.”

However, as social media can negatively impact society, there is much beauty behind it. Its ability to have individuals discuss new ideas, share feelings, complaints, build, social network all the while, it also makes gender segregation disappear that actually exist in real places. It allows individuals to meet people from around the world, social media allows for self-expression which leads to inspiration, it lets individuals connect, and gain insight. The author talks about the way social media brought about change and awareness to Syria and Egypt, basically stating that social media is “limitless” and “borderless”, plays by no rules.

I then reflect at social media again, sites such as FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, sure maybe individuals have this motive to show off to others or maybe some people are using it as a means to fill a void. Nevertheless, social media’s impact solely depends on the individuals who use them, there motives, why they use it, and how. So it is not social media that necessarily brings about change but it is the people and their motives, and those motives are the biggest mystery to find.


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