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Social media? It’s serious! Understanding the dark side of social media

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Research and practice have mostly focused on the “bright side” of social media, aiming to understand and help in leveraging the manifold opportunities afforded by this technology. However, it is increasingly observable that social media present enormous risks for individuals, communities, firms, and even the whole of society. Examples for this “dark side” of social media include cyberbullying, addictive use, trolling, online witch hunts, fake news, and privacy abuse. In this article, we aim to illustrate the multidimensionality of the dark side of social media and describe the related various undesirable outcomes. To do this, we adapt the established social media honeycomb framework to explain the dark side implications of each of the seven functional building blocks: conversations, sharing, presence, relationships, reputation, groups, and identity. On the basis of these reflections, we present a number of avenues for future research, so as to facilitate a better understanding and use of social media.

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Social media? It’s serious! Understanding the dark side of social media

  1. 1. Social media? It’s serious! Understanding the dark side of social media In the: European Management Journal, Vol 36, Issue 4, pages 431-438, 2018
  2. 2. The authors Christian V. Baccarella Timm F. Wagner Jan H. Kietzmann Ian P. McCarthy
  3. 3. The paper ● Click here to access the paper
  4. 4. The bright side of social media ● Individuals, communities, and organizations create, share, and consume information from each other. ● Firms use social media to: ○ improve marketing, public relations, customer service, product development and personnel decision-making, so as to analyze: ■ user-generated content (Paniagua, Korzynski, & Mas- Tur, 2017). ■ consumer-generated intellectual property (Berthon, Pitt, Kietzmann, & McCarthy, 2015). ■ interactions on social networking sites (Wagner, Baccarella, & Voigt, 2017).
  5. 5. The bright side of social media Social media functionality (Kietzmann et al., 2011).
  6. 6. The dark side of social media ● Trolling and online stalking ● Sharing faux-pas ● Shaming and cyberbullying ● Online witch hunts ● Addictive use and “fear of missing out” (FOMO) ● Privacy abuse ● Fake news ● Fake profiles and bots
  7. 7. Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive, stated that he regrets that some of the tools he has helped to create “are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”
  8. 8. The dark side of social media ● While we use social media to connect to our far- away friends, at the same time, we disconnect from those who sit across the table from us. ● Social media leads to “shallowing” where certain types of social media activity (e.g., sharing and conversing) lead to a decline in ordinary daily reflective thinking, and instead promote quick and superficial thoughts, that can result in cognitive and moral triviality.
  9. 9. The dark side of social media
  10. 10. Conversations ● The extent to which users use social media to inappropriately communicate with others. ● In 2010, a Reddit user who had donated a kidney made a posting seeking donations to a related charity. Reddit users thought this was a scam and contacted the user at his home with death threats. ● In 2013, Reddit’s platform helped to fuel "online witch hunts" when groups of users had wrongly named several people as suspects in the Boston bombing.
  11. 11. Conversations ● Chatbots and social bots that mimic human behavior to pollute conversations in online spaces with spam and misleading advertisements. ● The contributing editor of Scientific American Mind and former editor in chief of Psychology Today was fooled into thinking a chatbot on a dating service was interested in him romantically. ● When Microsoft released its Tay chatbot in 2016 to engage with millennials, some users tricked the chatbot into learning how to make racist statements.
  12. 12. Sharing ● The extent to which consumers exchange, distribute, and receive content, that is inappropriate. ● Fake news headlines for the 2016 U.S. presidential election include: ○ "Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President" ○ "FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder- Suicide" ● These headlines and their fake stories were on more than 100 websites run by teenagers in the small town of Veles, Macedonia.
  13. 13. Sharing ● Intellectual property infringement risks of sharing: ○ In 2007 Stephanie Lenz posted a 29- second video on YouTube of her baby pushing a toy around the kitchen, while dancing to the song “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince. ○ Universal Music Group which manages the copyright of Prince’s music, decided that the song rather than the dancing baby was the focal content in the video. Universal issued a takedown notice.
  14. 14. Presence ● The extent to which users inappropriately know whether, where and when, others are accessible. ● From 2011 to 2015, the default settings for Facebook Messenger were to collect and display geolocation information with message content. ● In 2012, a number of organizations reported privacy concerns about the implication of this geolocation sharing feature of the Messenger application, but to no avail. The policy was not changed.
  15. 15. Presence ● In 2015, an extension for the Chrome browser named Marauders Map (after the magical map in the Harry Potter books) allowed Facebook Messenger users to access and map location data, and thus stalk, the identity and movements of all individuals in a conversation.
  16. 16. Relationships ● The extent to which users can inappropriately relate to other users. ● This includes cyberbullying and online harassment: ○ Estimates are that 10 – 40% of the youth are victims of cyberbullying. ○ 40% of those who cyberbully report they do so for fun, possibly connected with occurrences of jealousy.
  17. 17. Relationships ● The dark side of social media relationships also includes online stalking, where social media are used to threaten, coerce or harass an individual, group, or organization. ● The harassment includes false accusations and defamation, covert and overt monitoring and gathering information.
  18. 18. Reputation ● The degree to which users can inappropriately identify and influence the standing of themselves and others. ● Numerous business and political leaders, and others, have been forced to resign after posting offensive, disingenuous, or ridiculous content on social media. ● During hiring, employers are increasingly reviewing applicants' profiles on social media. ● Most adults searched for information about someone they seek to engage with in professional or romantic capacities.
  19. 19. Reputation ● Blogs such as Gawker and Wonkette have helped to destroy the reputations of many public figures. ● Hollaback!, Don’t Date Him Girl, and “revenge porn” sites provide platforms for users to shame, hurt, or reprimand others. ● Users hurt the reputations without thinking; often because they were highly emotional when posting, or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  20. 20. Groups ● The degree to which users inappropriately create, join or are excluded from groups. ● Users overly define themselves in terms of social groupings (ingroup identity). ● Groups become “echo-chambers” in which users’ beliefs are amplified and reinforced, and those who do not fit into those groups (outgroups) are belittled.
  21. 21. Groups ● “ingroup love” = users in the group are motivated to serve, help and maintain the in-group. ● “out-group hate” users not in the group are the target of aggressive, hurtful or competitive actions. ● Interests, gender and race often define the polarized discussions groups.
  22. 22. Identity ● The extent to which users have their online identities inappropriately exploited. ● The other blocks of the dark side honeycomb (e.g., conversations, relationships, groups, sharing, etc.) work to negatively impact who we are and our personality and character. ● Social media uses exhibitions status updates, photos, comments, chats and blogs, to reveal personal, temporal, locational and situational information.
  23. 23. Identity ● The visibility, transparency, permanence, and granularity of social media activity, means that users can easily lose control of their own identity. ● To adapt the famous quote from Shakespeare’s, As You Like It: “All the world’s social media is a stage. And all the users are merely being played and distracted. They post and consume and their identities. And each, in their time plays many parts in this online play.”
  24. 24. Contrasting the dark functionalities of trolling and fake news
  25. 25. Don’t be afraid of the dark: a call to action for social media researchers ● The dark side honeycomb serves as a useful foundation for research to take “a walk on the dark side” and work to: ○ Build dark side-orientated social media theories, models, and classification frameworks! ○ Use adequate methodologies for online and dark contexts! ○ Collect data and build cases! HEY SCHOLAR, TAKE A WALK ON THE DARK SIDE
  26. 26. References Baccarella C.V., Wagner T.F., Kietzmann J.H., and McCarthy I.P. (2018). Social media? It’s serious! Understanding the dark side of social media. European Management Journal. 36(4): 431-438 Berthon, P., Pitt, L., Kietzmann, J., & McCarthy, I. P. (2015). CGIP: managing consumer-generated intellectual property. California Management Review, 57(4), 43–62. Kietzmann, J. H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I. P., & Silvestre, B. S. (2011). Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business Horizons, 54(3), 241–251. Paniagua, J., Korzynski, P., & Mas-Tur, A. (2017). Crossing borders with social media: Online social networks and FDI. European Management Journal, 35(3), 314–326. Wagner, T. F., Baccarella, C. V., & Voigt, K.-I. (2017). Framing social media communication: Investigating the effects of brand post appeals on user interaction. European Management Journal, 35(5), 606–616.
  27. 27. Dr. Ian McCarthy @toffeemen 68 Professor, Technology and Operations Management Beedie School of Business Simon Fraser University Ian McCarthy It Depends Blog Slides produced by: