Sunday, July 24, 2011

Trust, Authenticity and the Ethics of Social Media

On January 8, 2006, America took a collective gasp when an article in The Smoking Gun exposed the nationally acclaimed memoir A Million Little Pieces as fictional, contrary to representations by the author, James Frey, that is was a factual account of his struggle with addiction and rehabilitation. Controversy ensued around the fabrications presented in the emotional memoir and Oprah Winfrey, whose endorsement was largely responsible for the book’s exponential success, voiced the feelings of betrayal from millions of American readers when it became apparent that we had been duped by false authenticity.
The national outcry against Frey is indicative of the simple fact that we just don’t like to be lied to. Our tolerance for deception is low and we expect, often demand, transparency in the media. However, the advent of social media has unleashed a world where identities, authorship and claims often lack verification, a world which beseeches trust at your own risk.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

#AmericanDemocracy in 140 characters

As a New Yorker, it's fairly common to experience the occasional celebrity sighting on the way to the office or while on a lunch break. Of course, there are those initial 5 minutes when you frantically search for your camera phone and text everyone you know to bear witness to your TMZ moment. But more often than not, as the adrenaline fades, you reflect on how "normal" Heidi, or George or Julia looked. For some reason it seems odd that they would be walking in sneakers hand in hand with their child, or having brunch at your favorite restaurant. And then comes the epiphany that public figures are just like us, with the differentiating factor of their occupation.

On July 6, President Obama delivered that same "ah-ha!" moment to millions of Americans when he joined the Twittersphere and answered questions from concerned citizens in an unscripted session at The White House. Razing the serpentine pavilion of politics, the #AskObama townhall provided the common student (and even someone named Shnaps!) with equal power to reach the President as the Speaker of the House. The success of the event, and perhaps of the President’s re-election campaign, lies in that simple gesture of access.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Social Media: The Bad Kid on the (PR) Block

Remember that childhood friend that you were told not to hang out with because he/she was a “distraction”? Mom and dad just wouldn’t listen when you told them that (insert friend’s name here) was misunderstood and that you were perfectly capable of getting good grades while maintaining that friendship.
Well, it looks like we haven’t grown up that much. Only now that friend is social media and our parents have been replaced with our employers.