Values

What are the values of social media? The last chapter of The Psychology of Social Media begins by repeating the book’s psychological definition of social media. In other words, the idea that these online services encourage us to digitise previously private personal information.

Fundamentally, Chapter 7 is concerned with two meanings of the word ‘values’ and how this relates to understanding social media. Values can mean numbers and digits, but it can also mean morals and ethics. I argue that to understand the psychology of social media, it is essential to realise that social media’s principles are essentially quantitative.

To illustrate this point, discussion moves to a historic tragedy on the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, and how the idea of commodifying our selves helps understand social media. This brings us to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the psychometric personality research behind it.

However, this kind of research assumes that social media accurately reflects human behaviour. I question this by exploring censorship, fake accounts and black markets for upvotes and comments. This also highlights how little users understand about how social media services operate.

While it might seem a long way off at present, I hope that in the future we will develop not only better methods of managing social media, but better understanding of our selves as a result. We need to clarify our own values, and for social media to better help us to do so.

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