Remember the notes we used to pass back and forth when we were children? The ones that asked “Do you think Johnny likes me?” Or, “which person is cuter?”

Well those types of questions are still asked and answered. Just as simply, just as directly, and with just as much complex return information as it gave us back then.

Rituals such as these, are crucial to our social development. They allow us to experiment with such concepts as acceptance, trust, disappointment, joy, fear, and anxiety. They serve to teach us the very basics about relationships, communication, and social status. Not to mention the lessons learned about the others around us.  What they  might feel. How they might have/have not reacted. Or how others even further might do the same.

With the emergence of global social networking, we as a society, are going through  similar types of experiences all over again. Except this time it is also being done in a much bigger, and totally foreign environment.

We are learning how to present ourselves on social dating sites, on giant social networks, by learning the social etiquette in chat rooms, cultural differences are more common as well.

With more and more of our society being “somewhere else,” travel considerations also factor into conversations more often.

Most everyone on the web is aware of the fact that information can and will be used against us if we are not careful. We’ve all been instructed to keep our financial information under lock and password because in a virtual world, a photo ID, and our physical bodies to confirm the permissions, aren’t how things work.

But how many of us are aware of some of the other ways information can be used? Only recently have people been made aware of things like “cyber-bullying,” “virtual extortion,” or “criminal aliasing.” Most of us however haven’t really taken a lot of these warnings too seriously other than to warn our kids to be careful with their passwords, with what they post, or how they communicate with others because for the most part, the kids have been the ones who have gotten the attention.

But it is access to information just like this that we are all talking about when we speak of an The information we will access regularly that help us shape our environment.

Before we start, let’s take a look at some of the same information from a different light.

January 12, 2011

By Tim Lister, CNN
Tunisian protests fueled by social media networks
The protests that have gripped Tunisia in recent weeks are, to say the least, unusual. Organized dissent in the streets is rarely tolerated in Arab states, and human rights groups say the Tunisian government has had a short fuse when dealing with opponents. But what’s going on in Tunisia is all the more unusual because the protests are being organized and supported through online networks centered on Twitter and Facebook.

In Tunisia’s state of unrest, protesters are using blogs, Facebook, Twitter, WikiLeaks documents, YouTube and other methods to mobilize and report on what is going on.” “The weeks of demonstrations, including the deaths of at least three and as many as 20 people, have been largely ignored by the majority of media outlets until recent days.”

Despite rigid censorship, the protesters have been aided by such external online activists as the collective known as Anonymous, according to the blog NDItech DemocracyWorks.

“Twitter played an important initial role in Tunisia for much of December. As the revolution gathered steam, the new minister of youth and sports, was an inspiration for bloggers in Tunisia,” said Nour. @slim404

Here are four ways that social media played a role in the Tunisian revolution. (Not how they are repeated in the related notations.)

Grassroots mobilization. Some of the organization of protests happened on Facebook, which effectively played the role of community organizing platform

Organize the rise of civil society and active citizenship. Citizens used social media to identify the positions of snipers, police and looters, and to alert one another to other violence, said Nour, who also noted that networks formed to clean streets, protect shops or organize bread lines. (See: London)

Counter rumor or propaganda tool. When there were concerns about water being poisoned, people sharing information on Facebook helped to counter that falsehoodk. When reports came in that there was massive shooting in a neighborhood, a few minutes later, a few dozen people said that was untrue.

Helped people analyze government statements. When government went on TV, people went on online to analyze what the president had said, and to form a consensus on whether the positions met their requirements. Ultimately, they did not.

JANUARY 25, 2011

Egyptian pro-democracy protesters are embracing Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Twitpic.

AUGUST 7, 2011

Traffic is surging to Twitter and major media websites in the UK as the London riots enter their fourth night.
A chaotic wave of violence and looting raged across London and spread to three other major British cities on Tuesday, as authorities struggled to contain the country’s worst unrest since race riots set the capital ablaze in the 1980’s.
Social media and mobile technology have been playing a major role in the riots.
Police are monitoring Twitter, and warn that those who have posted messages inciting the violence could face arrest.
The small groups of youths used SMS messages, instant messaging on BlackBerry smartphones and social media platforms such as Twitter to coordinate their attacks and stay ahead of the police.
“It got out of hand. It’s not connected to this anymore.” This is out of control,” (Ref: Mark Duggan)
The social media impact of the London Riots seems to be limited to Twitter, though. Facebook, the world’s largest social network, didn’t receive a similar traffic spike.

JULY 15, 2011

Social studies of Facebook and Twitter have been adapted to gain a greater understanding of the swarming behavior of locusts.
In a study published on July 15, 2011, in the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society’s New Journal of Physics, researchers have shown that swarming, a phenomenon that can be crucial to an animal’s survival, is created by the same kind of social networks that humans adopt.
Studies have shown that the decisions you make, or the opinion you have, are strongly influenced by the decisions and opinions of your friends, or more generally, your contacts in your social network.

AUGUST 7, 2011

LONG BEACH, Calif. –Due to the extreme popularity of social media use, researchers have increased their attention on the development of psychological disorders resulting in teens who obsess over Facebook. They’ve found antisocial behavior, narcissism and a many other character flaws may be on the rise due to teens overdosing on the world’s most prevalent social media site. These findings come from a recent study performed by Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University.
Teens were more likely to develop narcissistic behaviors if they used Facebook often.
Young adults with a strong presence on Facebook show more signs of psychological disorders such as mania, aggression and anti-social behaviors.
Overuse of media and technology has an overall negative effect on the health of all adolescents as they are more prone to anxiety and depression. They are also more likely to have future health problems.
Students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period experienced lower grades.

Study confirms social media’s revolutionary role in Arab Spring

A study from the University of Washington shows that social media, like Twitter and Facebook, did, indeed, play a major role in sparking the Arab Spring revolutions that engulfed the Middle East and Northern Africa this year.

Social media really did play an instrumental role in the wave of “Arab Spring” revolutions that swept across parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa earlier this year, a new study has found.

Researchers at the University of Washington sifted through more than 3 million tweets, countless hours of YouTube videos and gigabytes of blogs to find out whether the Internet, and social media services like Twitter and Facebook really played the revolutionary role many claimed they did.

According to the study, online chatter about revolution often began just before actual revolutions took place. And social media also served as an outlet for citizens of the region to tell their stories of revolution, which played an inspirational role for neighboring countries, the study found.

“Our evidence suggests that social media carried a cascade of messages about freedom and democracy across North Africa and the Middle East, and helped raise expectations for the success of political uprising,” said Philip Howard, a University of Washington communications professor and the study’s leader. “People who shared interest in democracy built extensive social networks and organized political action. Social media became a critical part of the toolkit for greater freedom.”

In Egypt, where the Arab Spring blossomed, Howard and his team found that the number of tweets that mentioned revolution in that country exploded from 2,300 per day to more than 230,000 per day. The number of videos, Facebook updates and blog posts about government opposition also rose dramatically.

Because Twitter users can send updates from any mobile phone, Howard says that platform offers the “clearest evidence of where individuals engaging in democratic conversations were located during the revolutions,” since many people in the region do not have standard Internet access, but most do have a cellphone.

The study also found that government efforts to cut off access to Internet and cell phone service likely caused an increase in activism, especially in Egypt where access was shut down for five days before being restored.

“Recent events show us that the public sense of shared grievance and potential for change can develop rapidly,” said Howard. “These dictators for a long time had many political enemies, but they were fragmented. So opponents used social media to identify goals, build solidarity and organize demonstrations.”

More recently, social media helped fuel days of riots in London and elsewhere in the UK. British Prime Minister David Cameron responded by saying that citizens who organize uprisings on social networks should be banned from accessing them — a suggestion that evoked ridicule from the notoriously authoritarian Iranian government. That idea was later discarded following a meeting between the British government, Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry.


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