Facts, Framing, and Social Capital On The Social Media Landscape[Part One]

“We are living in an age when thinking itself is no longer a personal activity but a collective one. We are immersed in media and swimming in the ideas of other people all the time. We do not come up with our thoughts by ourselves anymore, so it’s awfully hard to keep them to ourselves once we share them. Many young people I’ve encountered see this rather terrifying loss of privacy and agency over our data as part of a learning curve. They see the human species evolving toward a more collective awareness, and the net’s openness as a trial run for a biological reality where we all know each other’s thoughts through telepathy.” – “Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands For A Digital Age” Douglas Rushkoff, pg. 181 (2010)

In the above quote passage, media communications expert Douglas Rushkoff explains much of the milieu of this early twenty-first century. Our world has become a communications network of ideas, memes, and bad oral sex jokes compounded by the speed of a click that our models of business have not caught up to. It is also a world where attention spans mean less than attention mongering(“euphemism” is still one of my favored words). For those that seek a route to attention without the ability to be entertaining, there is the need to forge one’s persona after the activists and intellectuals of a prior century. This particular form of opportunism crushes the value of a fact into bits of coin no longer valued for their ability to enlighten, but only for their ability to give the presenter of such bits of information the aura of expertise and influence.

Rushkoff states in the same book:

“As a person’s value and connections in the digital realm become dependent on the strength of their facts and ideas, we return to a more memetic, fertile, and chaotic communications space. Once a message is launched—whether by an individual or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company—it is no longer in that person’s control. How it is received, how it is changed, and whether it is replicated and transmitted is up to the network. May the best meme win.” (ibid., pg. 107)

People typically are not seeking to exchange facts in an objective sense, but to frame facts in a manner that can potentially aid them in persuasion. The social sphere of what is termed, “social media,” is still a market place. Where this marketplace sells ideas is still the selling of a thing. This selling depends on that art of sales. The Art of Sales as in techniques such as groomed presenters, convincing demonstrations, branding, and persuasion.

The facts often cannot speak for themselves. The tossing of statistics and quantified measurements still need framing to be understood and useful. What I have gathered from social media is less about fact exchanging, but facts as a currency demanding one continue to borrow from a particular source. These factiods are not consumed for the purpose of being factual, but to be exchanged for social status and replication of a particular ideology.

“What factors might persuade us to adopt the perspective of a particular pundit we see on TV or on the Internet? One answer is how the pundit ‘frames’ the issue. To frame something means to place it in perspective. For example, is a particular drop in the stock market a ‘blip,’ a ‘crash,’ or a ‘meltdown?’ Are Democrats liberals or progressives? Are Republicans conservatives or right-wingers? Is gay marriage a political, religious, or financial issue, or none of the above? When you frame an issue, you are telling people what to think about it.” – “How Fantasy Becomes Reality,” Karen Dill(2009), [pg. 193]

How one frames each objective reality or standard of measurement depends on what group they belong to or wish to belong to. Social capital, is this sense, is not simply the connections one has or the knowledge one possesses, but the ability to persuade others one is connected to in an effort to alter their beliefs, thoughts, and actions in congruence with the knowledge one possess. It is to make others believe the facts represent a perspective best suited for tailoring directives and directions. It is social capital as influence.

“…there are two key aspects to social capital: social networks and the resources that are embedded within these social networks that an actor can access. …social networks are comprised of the people with whom one has sufficient relations to be able to ask advice or seek assistance. Social capital theorists often distinguish between what they refer to as ‘strong ties’ and ‘weak ties.’ Perhaps counterintuitive, it is better to have social networks comprised of many weak ties than those comprised of just a few strong ties. Strong ties are those relationships we have that are very close: with parents, spouse/partners, other relatives, long-time friends, and so forth. Weak ties can be thought of more in terms of acquaintances: the other parents we see at our children’s weekly soccer games, colleagues at work—especially those with whom we rarely socialize—members of our congregation or temple, and so forth…” – “Prisoner Re-entry And Social Capital: The Long Road To Reintegration,” Angela Hattery aqnd Earl Smith(2010), pg. 88