The purpose of Social Media / Hidden Costs


aka an expansion on Tucker’s Law Number 2: “Remember that unless you pay for the service, you are not their customer –you are likely to be the product (except for; even if you pay, there is no guarantee that you are their only customer:”

We all know, at some level, that our purpose when using media is often different from the purpose of the company publishing, or increasingly, supporting content.  Our purposes are diverse and ever changing, the business’s purpose is fixed: to make money.  More often than not, media is a advertizing delivery service.  We can of course derive benefit from consuming or utilizing media or its tools; indeed, this is required to keep us coming back and increase their market penetration. 

Even though we benefit from media and social media tools and platforms, we must weigh this against the cost.  Costs are sometimes hidden as the business models for many companies are complex (a future post perhaps). We should no longer say that internet services are free; this is misleading and untrue.  While it is true that we don’t always spend money, these are not charities.  they are business; they are selling a product.  Increasingly that product is us. 

The Internet is Us/ing us”

While this is fine for adults who, at least in our legal imagination and social rhetoric, have autonomy (or the potential anyways), it is not always fine for students.  I think that we have an ethical obligation to teach the consequences of using social media before we introduce it to our students.  As professionals, we need deep understanding of the consequences so we can impart them in our students.  Some of them, or their parents, might opt out of the use of social media sites–do we have the courage of our convictions to enable this by educating?  I feel a good start for educators is a mere 2 articles (both conveniently posted here: Neil Postman’s “5 ideas,” and Danah Boyd’s “Internet as Social Publics”).  This may seem like a very small amount of information to start (and there is of course many other great articles and sites to go to…Tim Chambers’s “who owns the digital you” for example), but I’d bet it would raise awareness levels in a vast majority of educators.

Not to put too fine a point on it, if you were to do a search on any book store’s web site with the search string, “social media” I bet many would be surprised by the result.  There is barely an book on education to be found but many about marketing, business, and advertizing.  The primary purposes of these media is to make money (your money, your student’s money) by selling to them or selling them to others.  Any educational value they have is the incentive to get you to come back (and bring the kids!); the carrot; the happy meal’s prize.  Be sure it is worth it, because sometimes it might cost too much.



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