(Week 3) Should social media have status restrictions?

Social Communicative Aspects of ICT

In the article The reader-to-leader framework: motivating technology-mediated social participation, the author attributed one of the motivations people participate in social media actively, even collaboratively, to the potential status rise and fame. The author then continues, “In offline situations,…, a commonly used ploy is to restrict access to allow only those with higher status to participate.” While I agree with that,  it quite bothers me that “some researchers are exploring these concepts online”.

There is no doubt that for businesses,it does no harm to create such a privileged feeling for their most active and thus “loyal” customers. What’s more, it can even serve as an incentive for other customers to participate more, or simply buy the privilege with money.

In fact, if we look closer, we can find many examples already existing. Many websites and BBS have points systems which allow users to exchange points for real commodities. You can gain points by writing threads and participate in activities, but the fastest way is simply spending money.  Sounds like the mechanics of an i-App free game.

However, when I think about it, many ethic questions do raise. Is it really good to restrict the online community for just those “privileged and high status” opinion leaders? Is it fair for other users who, although do not create much content online, participate offline? Does being an active user online, creating more content online equals to an opinion leader who can exert positive impact on the society? Or, are those “opinion leaders” real leaders?

Even if they are, here raises the controversial question often discussed in communication studies: how about those majority readers who are silent and seldom participate in online discussion? In real life, “the Spiral of Silence” has already been revolving for a long time; if the so-called “status” interfere with the online world, which used to be equal and anonymous, will it inherit the inequality and unfairness of the real world?

Reflections: Thinking of the relations between this question with last week’s reading, I think it emphasizes one point: the technology and the society both have impact and determinism on each other. We invent technology to make it do things we want it to do, so in this case, if some people want the Internet to have status, then it could easily happen.

4 thoughts on “(Week 3) Should social media have status restrictions?

  1. I think an online community where anyone could say what he/her wants to say is necessary. If there is a status restriction, I think, more people will be keep scilence. Some people say: in Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter), we could see a real China, we could see the problems of our society which we couldn’t see in daily news on CCTV. I think, it is because in Weibo people are able to point out their unsatisfaction of the government.

    But, at the same time, without a status restriction, without a strong norm to bound people’s speech, online social communities will became disordered, or evern exert harmful influence on society.

    The points system of some BBS, I believe, is a good idea.

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  2. (sorry that I left wrong comment just before. can you delete it?)
    It is very interesting that you point out the effectiveness to the real world beyond online itself. I wonder if it is just good enough as far as those entangled situation remain online. Like you said, if “the Spiral of Silence” has already been out there in our society, what will be our plan for action? People regard real world and online community separately and assume that their action on online wouldn’t affect the their real life. At least, they have believed that so far. But, things have changed. Now the online community has been bigger as the whole world is. Some restriction may be needed just like the real world.

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  3. Regarding your main question posed in the title “Should Social Media Have Status Restriction?”, I believe that the realization of such hypothesis would alter the very core of Social Media and their function. As very explicitly stated in the term “social media” which engulf all social networks that we are aware of, their initial purpose was to be social. It is this social nature and sense of equal participation and free thought sharing in online environment that led to their global popularity and ubiquity. Featuring a status restriction and they will no longer be Social Media. Incentives should be used to foster participation and collaboration as a method of access restriction.

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  4. I definitely agree that the technology and the society both have impact and determinism on each other. Speaking of social media restrictions, I also believe that they should be made to apply in different societies. Social media without order just like a society without laws. We should figure out what is the boundaries and appropriate restrictions in the social media.

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