The differences in the discussions of Ronson and Boyd focus on different aspects of a larger problem. They contrast in their focus, however: they both write about a common issue. The internet is an almost unavoidable, all encompassing aspect of our society today. While perhaps not fully ingrained yet, based on its evolution over the course of the 21st century, within the span of a decade, social media has changed the world wide web from a fringe destination into a hotbed of social communication and forum.
Boyd sought to discover how social media and networks were affecting teens. Certainly my generation was trained in offline social behavior and real-life social situations, as were those before me. But to expect that we know how to act on this new plane of existence and to think the internet is anything more than a wild, lawless Serengeti is a stretch. Boyd discovered that teens found identity and social groups through social media: they could express and live parts of themselves through the online space that they were barred from doing offline: this is new explorable territory. But it isn’t like there was some in depth walkthrough of the technology and applications they were using. The internet has many hidden challenges and aspects that if more people considered, especially in terms of social media, they might find disturbing. Teens and the rest of us face the challenges of social media, many of which are in our face such as hiding private information from parents, as well as more nuanced concepts: understanding that future employers may be interested in our internet history or our tweets. Boyd warns that the internet and social media may be more troublesome and complex than we make it out to be.
“The issues of persistence, visibility, spreadability, and search-ability…fundamentally affect their experiences in networked publics. They must negotiate invisible audiences and the collapsing of contexts (Boyd 203).”
The internet and social media provide us with challenges similar to real life but with certain twists. Knowing when to speak, what to say, understanding who my audience is: these are common skills in social etiquette. But when on the internet, its a whole new ball game. I think most young people now are extraordinarily cautious of what they post on the internet. I myself have been hugely reluctant to bite on social media for many reasons, but notably for fear that I might ‘mess up’ and cause a problem. It honestly boggles my mind that spokespeople for certain companies, or people affiliated with spotlight job positions think they can use a media platform so freely. How can they not understand the outcomes of their words in their position that POTENTIALLY could be created (even if it is a ‘harmless’ joke/tweet/post). People need to understand the realities of the internet. Sure, ideally, people don’t take things out of context, or journalists don’t post snippets of tweets or posts to paint a defamatory picture of someone: but this will and DOES happen. Boyd focuses on the challenges of social media and how teens interact with their peers through this means of communication. But she still focuses very much on the problems of etiquette, similar to Ronson.
Ronson focuses his work on public shaming through digital media. He sees that the affordances and constraints of the internet allow for a skewing of context and information, and for a shaming that would be otherwise impossible in this society. This skewing creates the destruction of people’s lives as it did in the case of Justine Sacco. Even when context is correctly established, such as in the Lehrer case, he still sees Draconian like responses to individuals from the mouths of the masses. Ronson calls for the horde, the sweltering masses of angry, pitchfork and torch wielding conformists to find another means of expression.
“How come people can come together, often spontaneously, often without leadership, and act together in ideologically intelligible ways? If you can answer that, you get a long way toward understanding human sociality. That is why, instead of being an aberration, crowds are so important and so fascinating (Ronson 105).”
Both writers seem hopeful that someday we will reach as a collective society an understanding of proper internet etiquette. If real life is any indication of internet society there is definitely potential that we may eventually get it right: no more public shaming, people free to act, no misinterpretations of context. Civil rights development and even political development took and is still taking quite a while to develop: so do your best to make the web a better place but don’t be a lofty idealist.