Thursday, 22 March 2012

Digital Identity in the USA

The website 'Business Insider' explores the different identities available to Americans online. Preetam Kaushik states that Facebook was established 'to help young college students find dates and networks.' However, Facebook has expanded its utility, as one is able to create a persona of themselves online. On the other hand, communicating online can cause one to become isolated as oppose to liberated, because Facebook users will replace physical communication to online communication. Further, liberation is restricted by the lack of privacy online, for example employers are able to search an employees profile for any mitigating factors that will effect their job stability.Yet it could be argued that there is variation between Facebook users. For instance, an older individual is likely to use the site less regularly and mainly to communicate with friends or family and to gain knowledge. Whilst youths are more likely to use the site more frequently and become concerned with photos and status updates. Either way, Facebook is used as a means of escapism from the average working day, which is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. But an excess of any pleasure is unhealthy, as using Facebook obsessively results in a decrease of time spent outside of an enclosed room with either a laptop or a mobile phone.
Kaushik then states 'Youtube was a platform for dorky youngsters to upload and share their videos online (as it turned out there’s a dorky youngster in all of us!)' This implies that Youtube is a means of transferring knowledge to others. This is accurate, but the significance of the statement is 'platform.' Youtube has also developed, especially in the music and film industries, as individuals can listen to music or watch films free of charge. This is beneficial to the consumer - who is not forced to walk to the shop in order to be entertained. On the other hand, Youtube has had a negative effect on companies such as HMV which is struggling to compete against the online market, which also includes Amazon for instance. Youtube also allows users to share their videos on social networking sites such as Facebook, as a result others can be introduced to new entertainment, knowledge and cultures. An example of a highly influential Youtube video was the Kony campaign which was released in March 2012. At first, the video was seen to raise awareness of the cruelties taking place in Africa. Yet sceptics argued that the movie was, in reality, propaganda which exaggerated the events occurring. Either way, Youtube has provoked discussion on major world issues, therefore credit it deserved.
Furthermore Kaushik argues, 'blogging was all about self-expression.' Allowing a person to express their personal opinions online provokes discussion on an array of subjects. Blogs are being used in schools in order to allow children to increase their online abilities as well as their general knowledge. On all the above forms of networking, individuals can be anonymous to a certain extent, as simply providing your name does not reveal your identity and the name used may not be truthful. Consequently, online users do not have to fear prejudice from other users, thus equality is exercised online. However, it could be argued that in a moral society, there should be no fear of discrimination and therefore one should be able to reveal their identity. Unfortunately, a minority of online users will use the Internet to abuse and bully others. But this will always occur, even without the Internet.
The liberation of the Internet is not just limited to individuals, as businesses also use online websites in order to increase knowledge of their market. Kaushik states the Internet 'is also a way to engage with the customer like never before.' Sites such as Facebook allow businesses to read criticisms customers have expressed. Further, surveys can be produced by businesses which ask questions about their customers. For example, McDonalds could ask the individuals using Facebook: what is your favourite food? The restaurant can consequently gain a larger understanding of its customers wants and needs. These processes take consumerism to a higher level, which is beneficial to America and companies worldwide.
Kaushik also mentions the popular 'Q&A webpages like Wiki Answers or YahooAnswers.' These websites can increase ones' knowledge, but not all the information provided on such sites are reliable. Additionally, such websites may prevent the increase in the world's intellectual capacities, because information circulates the Internet, but new information is arguably not often produced. Instead, users are merely consumers of such knowledge. If the use of such sources continue to increase, will there be a purpose for the public library or the university library? Would there even be a purpose for the university? Individuals can easily access information online, therefore lectures could become unnecessary. Instead, the purpose of university could be to gain independence rather than knowledge. If this is the case, universities will survive, seeing as the Internet can not fully offer both knowledge and social opportunities.

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