Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Tensions Surrounding Negative Aspects In The Evolution Of Social Media

We’ve all benefitted in some form or another from the advances in technology made by industries that are all about destruction.  One simple example is the proliferation of navigation systems in our cars and mobile phones – made possible due to the military’s development of the satellites and the underlying technology. But, it can be alarming and scary if we look at how social networking technologies and platforms may be fueling the players of destruction. Such an example of this is going on right now in the tensions surrounding Gaza – with both sides utilizing Twitter for building awareness and fear.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas are both sharing text and imagery via Twitter that range from threats to eliminated targets to missile launches.  I would imagine that these purposes were never thought of as use patterns for Twitter or any other social network when the founding developers were starting out.

Many around the world praised the capabilities of social networks in bringing the Arab Spring to reality – but those sentiments were all about the joy of re/building and connections.  The underlying thread of the Arab Spring was destruction of the status quo and the oppressive powers, so we could look at some of those posts filled with destructive notes and threatening natures as bad.  But, the general take on them was of positivity.

Can we do the same while evaluating the use of social networks by Hamas and the IDF while embroiled in a form of war?  So far, it is all about marketing/publicity/propaganda for each of these sides. In what I’ve read, it is hard to tell whether the posts are meant more as tactical communications of events or inflammatory railings meant to incite more support for either side.  The mere act of threats, taunts and destructive actions from organized military has got to be a major concern for Twitter’s legal team who developed the platform’s Terms & Conditions as a form of protection among individuals. I can’t imagine they ever thought this could have happened, or could they have?

As quickly as Twitter exploded onto the scene, marketers were trying to figure out how they could harness its power.   In parallel, the T&Cs have been steadily augmented ever since their first version upon launch as use has evolved. Without getting into the details of the conflicts in the Middle East, the reality is that the conflict has evolved over the decades (centuries, millennium) so that perception (or marketing) is key.  While bombs can be volleyed from one side to the next, the spin or marketing has become as important – if not more.

This development of marketing in the conflict is the one that is truly concerning. In war, the facts of the battle are often lost in the marketing of it.  We used to only be swayed by the victor after the battle has long been won and the victors have written the “history.”  Now, we have social networks that can shape that same history on a real-time basis.

We have become numbed by the images and tag lines that flicker across our devices 24/7 with there being very little difference between the image of a military commander who has been assassinated and the latest contestant to be voted off of American Idol or Survivor.

When real battles are being fought and lives are at stake, the comparisons to marketing – and its inherent luxuries – should come to an end. Twitter and similar platforms have quite a dilemma to resolve when evaluating whether these types of destructive and incited uses of their product should be allowed.  The answer is not as easy as a “Yes” or “No” because social has become such a large part of society and communications are not so easily removed once they’re out there. And, there is no discounting how much of an impact – positive and negative – social networking has made in our world.

As a community, we were too slow to respond to hatred and bullying by individuals via social networks. Now, we are moving into a much more official use of social networks for inciting fear. Before we know it, the line will be blurred beyond comprehension in relation to how social media changed our world in positive ways versus negative.

As a community, we need to move to make sure that the lines are drawn quite clearly. Perhaps it is a natural advance in evolution, but we should be pushing for positive use… If the difference between positive and negative is even that clear…

GMO As A Law Just Doesn’t Taste Right

Tomorrow, the State of California will be voting on a proposition (or Law) that would require any food item sold in a store to be labeled with wording that it was genetically engineered.  With many of the offices being decided early by the general leanings of the state, some of these state measures are causing the deep conversations and Prop 37 might be causing the biggest division within homes. The sad thing is that it probably shouldn’t even be a law – but a matter of marketing – and that is why this GMO requirement just wouldn’t be right.

The idea that the 3rd generation of mice becoming sterile based on their being fed genetically modified foods is pretty repulsive.  And, the thought that genetically engineered food is thought to be causing autism or any other physical issue is definitely serious.  But the issues don’t necessarily lead to requiring a law be passed – and a poorly written one at that.  What GMO opponents really need is strong marketing.  Strong labeling by the producers who stay away from GMO would do a lot to ensure that people who care can get the food products they need.  Strong marketing by those who can actually profit by people walking away from GMO foods makes more sense.

Courtesy of Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images / October 29, 2012

The thought that there should be a law requiring companies who are providing foods that have been (and still are) legal for a couple of decades to incur costs and label their food in a negative form just doesn’t seem right.  The matter is even larger when you consider that companies don’t usually create packaging only for one State.  Their items are packaged for regions in the smallest form, so there would be an inherent effect on other states – probably leading to the fact that the labeling will appear in other states hether they care or not.

Within the past few years, there was another instance where a decades-long accepted process was found to be causing problems.  The stir was around BPA – a chemical used in the creation of plastics that was heavily used in baby bottles.  Research found that there might be risks for infants and children due to extended interaction with products made with BPA.  A law was NOT passed, but companies started labeling their non-BPA products as such to educate and drive consumption.  Those whose products continued as they were (with BPA) have found deeply diminished demand.  The FDA is still doing research and has only suggested that consumers may want to transition to BPA-free products. Even without the final findings or a law, you’d be hard-pressed to find products including BPA in the market.

Those who don’t want to risk eating food with genetically modified ingredients should be able to search out properly marketed products to meet their needs.  Much like people who cared gravitated to Organically labelled products, they can do the same if they are so inclined on these food products.  The interesting thing about the Organic movement is that the positive labelling was called into question due to the relaxed guidelines on what constituted an organic product.  At least those who were not organic were not forced to state that they weren’t.

In the case of Prop 37, it places the honus on those who market products that may be lacking in their genuine health to tout themselves in a negative fashion rather than providing a positive platform for the marketers of GMO-free products.  That doesn’t seem right.

The great thing about Prop 37 is that it opened my eyes to the perceived dangers of GMO foods.  I will now be more aware and search out those foods that were not created using those methods. But I will not be voting for the law that requires products to negatively label themselves. It just doesn’t taste right.