In today’s day and age, social media can be used not only for communication but for various other purposes. Scientists are now doing ground breaking research to preempt the spread of diseases, simply by tracking and finding patterns in social media. According to me, social media can have various applications that surpass anything that we can imagine, much like the epidemic predicting strategy. I would not be against the use of my Facebook posts as part of social experiments, as long as I have given informed consent for its use.
I find social media experiments that generate information that are generalized to a particular population, troubling. These generalizations are what give rise to stereotypes about a particular gender, age, socioeconomic background, race or ethnicity.
The conclusions that are drawn may not be accurate because social media platforms do not give a factual and realistic depiction of the person’s character. Social media such as Twitter or Facebook often give rise to a misrepresentation of oneself to fit social norms and avoid stigmatization. This results in a facade that is created which may be the complete opposite of what people truly are.
Most authors and researchers only take gender, personality and age. Though these broad categories do account for various differences in the language we use on social media, authors are missing key categories. In my opinion, age can account for level of education and hence that does not require to be introduced as a new category. As we go to higher grades, the way we speak and write evolves. We are introduced to more vocabulary and as we develop into adults, our style of writing also changes. Age itself may not fully account for these changes, as not everyone receives the same level of education; however, educated people are the majority of social media users.
A category that I would have definitely added to this study would be ethnicity or country of residence. Our society and community shapes our morals and how we communicate. A certain phrase may be prevalent in a certain area of the world and the urbanization of the country can influence the frequency of the use of abbreviations and slang. Hence, generalizing the entire female population of the word to be the most frequent users of ‘omg’ or other such claims would be misleading and incorrect.
This article made me introspect about which group I would probably be categorized into, and whether that group truly represents who I am. It made me think about the generalizations that I make in my mind and how I associate certain words to a group of people. Social media data-mining may prove useful, if the researchers use the data in manner so that stereotyping can be avoided; and as long as they take informed consent before using a person’s private posts.