The Ole Miss Alumni Association hosted a discussion about social media’s influence on Wednesday afternoon featuring professors from the School of Journalism and New Media. Professors Jason Cain, Brad Conaway and Cynthia Joyce shared their insights regarding the impact social media has on society, business and politics.
Cain, an assistant professor of integrated marketing and communications, began the session by sharing his view of social media’s impact on how information is consumed by the public.
“Our moment right now in social media is not new and uncharted waters,” Cain said. “It’s not as we’ve never faced it before.”
Cain pointed out that many people speculate that the invention of social media has sparked a revolution, when in reality, the idea of mass media has existed for nearly 600 years.
“This is an evolution, not a revolution,” Cain said.
Cain said social media isn’t going anywhere any time soon, and he said that isn’t a bad thing. Because of the invention of the smartphone, people can use the internet and social media almost any time they want.
“We can’t fit the genie back in the bottle,” Cain said.
Although there is a learning curve to navigating social media, it is accessible on many different platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and Cain expects social media to continue to impact our daily lives.
Joyce, an associate professor of journalism, said she has seen its evolution firsthand. With a background of working in newsrooms, she saw the way social media changed how information was delivered.
Joyce admitted that she, along with many other colleagues, are challenged by the in’s and out’s of social media, but she readily agreed with Cain that social media is a fundamental part of living in today’s world.
“This is the air we breathe now,” she said.
Joyce ended her talk with the advice to be intentional about what we post on social media and to use it as a tool to communicate.
“Use the tools,” she said. “Don’t be used by them.”
Lastly, Conaway, visiting professor of journalism instruction, touched on the value of social media in today’s world. He began with a statistic from the Pew Research Center that says nearly 64% of Americans think social media has a mostly negative impact on the country.
Following a Twitter spat between Neil deGrasse Tyson and Steak-Umm, a frozen meat company, Conaway pointed out that social media often serves as a platform for debate, which can lead users to feel as though social media has mostly negative effects.
“We live in a world where one of the most prominent scientists in the country can be attacked by a company selling frozen steaks,” Conaway said.