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Policy and Profiles: Where Does Social Media Stand?

How Can Social Media Be Regulated?

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Social media is fuelled by talk, all sorts of talk. This makes it all the more frustrating when trying to discuss and define it, especially in the context of law and order. In light of the recent phone-hacking scandal, media forms of all shapes and sizes have been dragged under the scrutinising eye of the law, for a long overdue inspection.

Social media contorts its way through time, year on year defining and redefining itself. New technology is expansive by nature, and therefore requires an adaptive law. However what we often see is law, media policy in particular, left behind under constant reconstruction as it tries to encompass the new and widen its parameters, all without pulling open fresh loopholes for past perpetrations. A tough task it seems, but not an impossible one. Facebook, whilst not perfect, is doing a pretty good job at policing its content.

It is said that Facebook is the home of 25% of all photos ever taken. To try and monitor such vast volumes of data would be impossible - if not a huge waste of time. That is why they successfully rely on feedback and reports from their users.

“All Communities have rules” – Simon Milner

According to Facebook’s UK policy director, Simon Milner, Facebook acts as a community (a 1.25 billion community at that).  In the 2014 UK Internet Policy Forum, hosted by Nominet News, Milner outlined that Facebook was lucky enough to entertain a semi-self-policing community; rather than employing a small army to sift through all content uploaded to the site, they trust the main body of users to judge for themselves what is, and what is not, appropriate. This, of course, only applies to content that, at this moment in time, lies in the grey area between breaking the law and common courtesy.
The question at the centre of this debate is: should media policy stretch to cover social media? To trudge towards an answer we have to first sift through the distinctions and similarities between the media and social media. They both share news. Tick. They both host advertisements. Tick. They both allow people in power to buy large segments of their outreach. Tick. 

However, social media doesn’t control news. It is a platform, a blue and white world, a virtual reality filled with selfies and status updates and scrapbook selves. The only difference between this world (the one I write from) and that (the one I write in), is physicality. Physical presence, as we know, makes up the majority of the way we experience life; from body language to bloody violence. So surely, all in the absence of physicality can be governed in the same way?

We pour all but our touch into social media, particularly Facebook. On the one hand this can seem right; naturally progressive. On the other, the left hand, this can seem odd, terrifying, and unnatural. The use of social media and technology poses so many ethical considerations; can two people who have never met fall in love? Does the efficiency of a kindle overpower the smell of a book? Etc. I definitely can’t answer these questions, but you can see what I’m getting at.

There is one sure advantage to the so-nearly complete second selves that live online, and that is the accuracy of their reflection. We are so bound to our profiles that we can no longer distance ourselves from the consequences of our online actions. 

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” - Oscar Wilde

Time has shown that online masks do enhance honesty and allow discourse free from stigmatic consequences. People all over the internet share intimate thoughts and feelings with perfect strangers, thoughts and feelings that need to be shared, but would remain untold were it not for the mask their mouths wear. But also, unfortunately, that truth often mutates into abuse, ever apparent in the internet’s trolling sub-culture. So in that sense the blurring boundary between our real and virtual worlds adds responsibility to our actions. 

It seems that, once removed, the mask of anonymity reveals yet another mask. This time an airbrushed caricature depicting the person we want the world see. Morbid it seems, but there is hope! The happier we are to be ourselves the more real our profiles become. If you love being you then that is who you will present to your online community. With time, the gloss will be lost from the grimacing smiles and trembling poses the subtle mask displays, and all the beautiful detail that really reflects your character will wash over to reveal natural blushes and spontaneous dimples.

Sorry to have become side-tracked.  For more information on media policy feel free visit these pools of inspiration from Quartz, the BBC and The Guardian.

Leo Donnelly

Ever wondered what would happen if you gave a half-crazed, semi-concussed, unstoppable maverick a platform to write about social media? Follow him @LeoAtSMF

Contact us on Twitter, on Facebook, or leave your comments below. To find out about social media training or management why not take a look at our website for more info http://socialmediacambridge.co.uk/.  
Policy and Profiles: Where Does Social Media Stand? Reviewed by Leo Donnelly on Monday, March 16, 2015 Rating: 5
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