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ExperimentDuring this module, you were to do an experiment using your own social media (Module 03 Activity). Looking back at your social media experiment from the week, how did your responses go? Did you notice any differences among groups or countries? What stereotypes did people comment on?Write at least 3 pages answering these questions using your social media experiment, being sure to demonstrate with examples. Include a theory from last week if you see evidence of one. Also include your response to the experiment – were you surprised or did you find what you thought you would? Did that expectation affect what you found? How can you tell?

Same as the other oneSocial Media’s Influence on BehaviorThere are several aspects to why we have emotional attachments to characters in movies, books, and television programs. We identify with one character rather than another and seem to have a better understanding of that character. We also show empathy for a character, and that allows us to feel what that individual may be going through. Children, maybe because they are less inhibited by social norms, are more likely to emulate a certain character, such as a superhero or a favorite television personality. In fact, Halloween is filled with children dressing up as Batman, princesses, or Teen Titans. Adults also dress up, but it seems children may have the upper hand when it comes to allowable fantasy role-playing.According to Blizzard Entertainment, the company that makes World of Warcraft and many other online role-playing games (RPGs), there are millions of online players from all over the world who play this fantasy game. What is the attraction?Role-Playing GamesHave you ever watched a movie where you cheered when the team won the championship after overcoming incredible odds, or where you cried when one of the main characters died? On the other hand, how many times, when you rooted for the underdog team to win, did you seem to have a great dislike for the other side?According to Blizzard Entertainment, the company that makes World of Warcraft and many other online role-playing games (RPGs), there are millions of online players from all over the world who play this fantasy game. What is the attraction?Role-playing is not really new, and there are examples of live-action role-playing (LARP) that allow adults to role-play various races (such as elf, dwarf, goblin, and human) and various occupations (such as cleric, wizard, thief, bard, and fighter). For LARPers, the event is centered on a predetermined fantasy world and is usually held over a weekend. Players don their favorite costumes and engage in mock battles and casting spells while yelling out the hit points or damage from hitting each other with keenly crafted foam weapons. LARP and dice or board games like Dungeons and Dragons allow players to engage in an imaginative play. Although the level of this type of play is constricted within the context of the real world, such as the park being used for LARPing, within online playing, the graphics and fantasy world are extended so the players join others within the fantasy world.World of Warcraft players begin with a low-level character (limited strength, defense, and weapons or skills abilities), and just like a new employee might improve his or her skills through work experience, World of Warcraft players increase their characters’ skills through more game play. Within the game, they can interact with a multitude of avatars (personas created by someone) and be involved in a multitude of quests or goals.The attraction for such online RPGs may have to do with an individual’s ability to create an avatar reflecting who the individual would like to be. For instance, a person who normally wouldn’t be considered athletic or an outdoors person can create and play an over-muscled barbarian warrior whose strength and weapon skills become a dominant force in the world of the game. (Bessiere, Seay, and Kiesler (2007) conducted a study examining how World of Warcraft players created their main characters. Although a small sample size was used (51 compared to the millions actually playing the online game), the study determined that individuals created their characters based on their ideal selves, rating their characters with more favorable attributes than they would have attributed to themselves.

Culture and EthnicityDo social media’s tools on the Web greatly influence our perceptions of race, culture, ethnicity, gender, and specific groups such as gay, elderly, obese, short, or tall individuals? How about certain occupations or political affiliations? Many individuals have their favorite news forums and blogs channel. What if they spent time interacting with bloggers or on Facebook an average of six to eight hours a day? Would that be enough to influence their perceptions or their worldview? As mentioned before, cultivation theory may play a part in influencing an individual’s perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.The portrayal of stereotypes has become commonplace in social networking sites. Even the seemingly mild-mannered pop-up advertisements for household cleaning or appliance products appear to be steeped in stereotypes. One common portrayal is the task of housekeeping, with women taking the commanding role and men being portrayed as somewhat inept (Scharrer, Kim, Lin, & Liu, 2006). Why is the broom trying to woo a woman back from the new and improved sweeper? Couldn’t a man be responsible for cleaning the home? Beer advertisements, especially during sporting events, seem to portray men as drinkers and women are sexualized objects seeking for male attention. Why would a group of women wearing only painter bibs need to stand in a lake? What does that have to do with how good a beer tastes?

Gender and Racial StereotypesGender and racial stereotypes in social media have been common since the beginnings of mass media. This is not an overgeneralization, and even though the stereotypes are not so obvious these days, they still exist. To understand the changes in social media with respect to racial and gender stereotypes, review some of the older commercials you can find on the internet. Some of the most pervasive stereotypes in social media are about sexual attraction and intimacy.While gender stereotypes in social media geared toward children may perpetuate gender and social norms, what about gender stereotypes for adolescents and young adults? Body image is a person’s perception of his or her own physical appearance. In 2008, Grabe, Ward, and Hyde did a meta-analysis on the role of media in body-image concerns among women. They analyzed 77 journal articles published between 1975 and 2007 examining four main concerns: body dissatisfaction, body self-consciousness or objectification, internalization of the thin ideal, and drive for thinness and eating behaviors and beliefs (Grabe, Ward, & Hyde, 2008).The major limitation of the analysis was the lack of diversity (the studies were mainly white women). The analysis demonstrated that although perceptions have changed over the decades, social media has a profound influence on the body image of women. The change in perceptions may have to do with media sensitivity toward gender stereotypes and a greater public awareness of how social media influences body image. However, in a more recent study Ferguson, Wingard, and Winegard indicate that although social media may have an influence on body image, other societal factors, such cultural traditions or norms, also influence body image (2011). According to the study by Shwartz, Grammas, Sutherland, Siffert, and Bush-King in 2010, body image, social media, and cultural influences have also been studied in men, with similar results.Are stereotyped depictions of groups of people in social media just a common part of our culture? Do videos, blogs, and new forums need to depict individuals of Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, Black, White, or foreign one way? Does mental illness need to be depicted only as a vehicle for violent behavior?One of the common places to find stereotypes is on Instagram where women are associated with posting selfies and food pictures. It is interesting to speculate whether this stereotype of Instagram as viewed in the recent television show “Selfie” has an effect on real-life perceptions of American women. Are the attitudes and perceptions towards women totally accurate, or have our perceptions been skewed through the cultivation of a media stereotype?It is not that social media as a whole is failing to strive to be socially responsible. However, it is important to realize that social media, for the most part, is driven by people’s willingness to share, and as such, groups may be underrepresented or stereotyped because the reality is they do not have enough clout to change the perception.

Older AdultsOne of the perpetual stereotypes is the portrayal of older adults understanding the logistic of navigating various networking social tools. Over the last several decades, the social media has often portrayed the elderly in roles where they have either been dependent on other individuals and physically and cognitively challenged or wise and exceptionally enduring. Not all depictions of older adults are meant to be negative stereotypes, and in some cases, the intention is to parody through comedy. Take, for instance, The Simpsons episode “Old Money”. Produced in 1994, the episode is filled with ageism stereotypes but they appear in the context of demonstrating the need to change.The challenge with how social media depicts older adults arises because the U.S. population is aging, and with more consumers being older adults, the stereotype is changing. This may be because many older people have taken an active interest in connecting with families and friend on Facebook and Twitter. They are finding social media tools helpful for sharing links, photos, videos, news, and status updates with their families and friends and reconnecting with past acquaintances (Leist, 2013).Social media has a significant influence on our perceptions regarding race, ethnicity, and culture.In some instances, social media can improve our overall understanding of diversity, while, in other instances, it can perpetuate stereotypes or skewed perceptions regarding race, ethnicity, and culture.Social media can define and promote the norms of how we should look, eat, exercise, and even practice religion. Older adults use the Web to enhance the quality of their lives, such as continuing education or sharing Facebook with their children.

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