Is Social Media Influencing Our Behaviour or Exposing It?

Is Social Media Influencing Our Behaviour or Exposing It?

Social media: sometimes a community; sometimes a hunting ground

Social media: sometimes a community; sometimes a hunting ground

We are products of our environment, influenced by life events and circumstances. Social media has altered our approach to shopping, education and relationships. Does social media influence our behavior or simple expose it?

Constantly evolving, social media could be described as online communities for communicating and sharing. The end result is people influencing people. This creates significant potential to transform and affect society both in positive and negative ways.

Marketing and manipulation

Marketing strategies that are sometimes considered a form of consumer manipulation, are changing because of social media. Online shopping, product reviews, consumer feedback on company social media sites, service comparisons, and competition all influence our opinion about a company, and ultimately influence our decision to purchase from them, or do business with them.

people want to be part of a dialogue about their products and services—either positively or negatively

As online purchasing increases, retail companies face long-term transformation strategies to optimize their social media footprint and market share in their respective industries. The understand that people want to be part of a dialogue about their products and services—either positively or negatively; therefore, companies have a vested interest in being active social media participants.

Social media, politics and institutions

Barack Obama’s successful rise to the oval office was credited to the use of social media in his election campaign. While attending fewer fundraisers, President Obama extended his reach, managing to raise about 55 million dollars. Social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are now seen as inexpensive tools for politicians and businesses to promote products, services, and themselves.

Social media and moral issues

Dalhousie University recently suspended 13 dentistry students from clinical duties over misogynistic comments allegedly posted on Facebook. According to the CBC, members of the Class of DDS Gentlemen page on Facebook voted on which woman they’d like to have “hate” sex with and joked about using chloroform on women.The response to this post and the issue surrounding violence against women went viral on social media. Criticism focused on the appropriate level of discipline the university should take, with hundreds of protesters rallying outside the university president’s office.

Did social media create this problem or expose it? Facebook was simply a communication platform for these dentistry students to share their thoughts and activities. Social media exposed the scandal and ignited the issue of violence against women, punishment and restorative justice.

Social media’s power to communicate and mobilize

Protesters used social media platforms to coordinate rallies, information, and sympathizers abroad

In 2009, the Iranian government imposed a media blackout during post-election protests that became known as the “Green Revolution.” Protesters used social media platforms to coordinate rallies, information, and sympathizers abroad, informing Western journalists of the countries internal activities.”The immediacy of the reports were gripping”, reported the Washington Times. Journalists even gave the unrest in Tehran a second moniker: the “Twitter Revolution”.

The Iranian imposed blackout and subsequent phenomenon now seen as the beginning of the global social media revolution. Smartphones, the web, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms had changed the rules of the game, giving citizens new powers to change or influence real-world events.

Is the Internet becoming the de facto true form of democracy? Social media allows people to speak and be heard, absent of government control.

Is power in relationships or in information?

With information so accessible, social media is influencing and building relationships through common thought and activities across the globe

The Internet, search engines and social media have opened up the floodgates of information to the point where anyone is able to acquire the knowledge they may want or need. I learn to play the guitar, build a workshop and complete numerous projects and activities through information found on the web and YouTube.

Businesses and institutions are tearing down silos, offering free web versions of their courses. The shift seems to center around sharing information and in turn developing relationships. With information so accessible, social media is influencing and building relationships through common thought and activities across the globe.

The Internet and social media have allowed people to align themselves on a variety of political, social and ethical subjects, largely uncontrolled by government.

Social media, the command and control center

…social media and Internet technology is a real and evolving threat. Terrorism, cyber bullying, government and institutional hacking are examples…

The British Intelligence Agency has stated that social media has become the “command-and-control networks” for terrorist and criminals. In November 2014, the Financial Times reported that British intelligence agencies know that ISIS extremists use messaging services like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp to reach their peers. Security Agencies wants greater support from the U.S. technology companies that dominate the Web in order to fight militants and those who host material about violent extremism and child exploitation.

This negative aspect of social media and Internet technology is a real and evolving threat. Terrorism, cyber bullying, government and institutional hacking are examples of risks. Governments, law enforcement and security agencies are forced to respond, demanding new levels of coordination, partnerships and sharing of intelligence. The Internet and social media have had a profound influence on how the world responds to global risk. Some would argue that we more reactive to threats rather than anticipating and controlling them.

Does social media influences our behavior?  I think it does.  As much as these platforms can facilitate individuals to communicate freely and exchange information and thought, we can also get stuck in a virtual world that may not be grounded in reality. It is easy to criticize, particularly in front of a computer. Although relationships can be formed online, nothing beats face to face communications. The Internet and social media have changed and influenced many aspects of our lives, and will continue for the foreseeable future.

Social media and crime

Criminals have taken advantage of the inter-connectivity and anonymity provided by the Internet and social media. The virtual world has created different ways to commit conventional crimes. Criminals involved in bullying/harassment, stalking, terrorism, fraud, and identity theft have all found a new hunting ground and lair, working where there is a treasure trove of potential victims and a lower risk of being caught.

On the other side of that coin, law enforcement has adjusted to this new world, using the Internet and social media to investigate crime, and increase public awareness and safety.

Social media, background checks, and background investigations

Regardless of the type of investigation, investigators must mine data from any relevant resource, including a comprehensive search of the Internet and social media platforms.  Researching the vast amounts of data held within the depths of the Internet is a daunting task, but a must-have tool in a background investigator’s toolbox. In corporate background investigation or pre-employment screening , social media has become a small but important piece of the puzzle for finding information that protects individuals and companies.

About the Author

Pat Fogarty is a former organized crime investigator now leading Internet research and investigations at Fathom Research Group. Read more about Pat.