Social media was once used to connect virtually with our families and has now grown to be one of the best tools for spreading information. Providing and spreading information can be intentional for more than just awareness, often information is hacked to provide the public the knowledge governments or large corporations purposely neglect to communicate. When thinking of hacking, often individuals think of stealing your information for their financial gain and therefore potentially affecting your ability to pay for anything or they may even go as far as to steal your identity.
So how do we learn to trust online and detect deception in the cyberworld? And what impacts are associated?
The root cause for the development of social media platforms can easily be identified and connected to the demand for new developments within the communication industry. Improvements in both how we communicate with the developments of new technology and the platforms we use, new ways of connecting with each other have been developed. With each improvement, generally made to enhance the user experience, many online and social media users question if they can trust sites or people, as many would have had a negative experience being scammed or deceived in their time online leading to doubt and lack of trust on the online.
Social media has become one of the easiest places to scam innocent online and social media users. Australians in 2020 lost over $850 million from online scams (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 2021), indicating how large of an impact hacker culture has. Hacker culture has evolved to where it is today from the ease of access a society, external from that of the hacker has in reaching another society. With this development and introduction of hacker subculture, people begin feeling a lack of trust. The concept of blockchains and cryptocurrency may actually solve stolen identities and money.
The origins of a hacker begin with university students trying to make resources “open and free” to the general public rather than the information being withheld by large corporations (Grinnell EDU, 2013). Since this origin of what and who a hacker was and is, many hacker subcultures have emerged, all unique from one another but with the shared commonality being that they all want the information to be “open and free”, sometimes for good or what we hear more often as a way to gain from their chosen victim (Grinnell EDU 2013). It is important to recognise how the demand for information has introduced hackers and therefore developed a lack of trust as hacker subcultures emerged.
The internet and social media platforms are often known as ‘copy machines’ due to the endless versions of content that can be found on the platforms (Kelly, 2008). The origin of the meme comes from Richard Dawkins who in 1976 defined “a meme as a shareable cultural artefact that spreads through a culture like a wildfire” (Dawkins, 1989). Interestingly due to their popularity, memes are now seen as the language of social media users. These users don’t have to speak the same language to be able to understand the meme. The humour from the image does all the necessary talking. An image posted to a platform can be recognised and understood by anyone viewing it and therefore can be used as a communicative tool to be able to inform on current world events or can simply be used for amusement (Haddow 2016).
Meme warfare gained its popularity during the 2016 American US election. These political memes did not require deep and intense thought and planning, instead they were easily created and posted to social media in real-time, with the power to reach the masses (Haddow, 2016). The memes during this election were used to communicate the ideas, beliefs and promises each candidate held and could either be seen as “offensive, defensive or predictive” (Giesea, 2016). Regardless of their initial intention or the perceived intention, the memes were used as a communicative tool on social media to try and gain trust for the candidate. With social media having the ability to instantly post and deliver messages faster than we have ever experienced, we need to commend that the demand for speed within communication has allowed for developments such as memes to be produced and reproduced on the internet and social media. Our ability to connect to different devices from the development of the Internet of Things (IoT) refers to physical devices around the world connected to the internet collecting and sharing data (Ranger 2020), has also seen new ways of communication as we can connect our devices allowing them to perform the actions we select from them through our phones. Connectivity has always been the foundation of communication and now we can do so from all of our devices, many new possibilities could emerge.
What will happen with social media, hackers and memetic warfare if the demand or continued improvement in communication and technology stopped or continued to grow?
I believe that neither social media, hackers or memes will vanish or become a thing of the past, if anything I truly believe that they will only become more useful and more prominent in our lives. We have already begun to witness new job roles such as social media analysts, content creators and brand managers (Gotter, 2021) emerge to capture audiences and therefore customers, but we can also see the role of a hacker developing. Their knowledge and skills will be used to build stronger defensive barriers to improve the safety of certain information spreading which can gain trust within organisations of a hacker or reduce trust even more within the public.
Since 2016 and the increased use of memes, I have noticed brands have begun using memes to sell and promote their products. With the ability of the meme to go viral across various platforms, meme marketing has become an integral part of online marketing (Carr, 2021). The capability of the brand’s meme to go viral, increasing brand exposure is extremely appealing to brands but the possibility of overusing memes could lead to memetic warfare between companies selling similar products.
I also think that as hacker subcultures are introduced, IoT will have to ensure safety barriers are well defenced to prevent hacking the connectivity of devices which could lead to the release of personal data. It will also be important to note the growth of blockchains. Blockchains store information in a different way we are known to. There is no central node but rather the information is stored in “blocks” chained together in sequence order (Conway, 2021). IoT and its connection can become vulnerable with hackers intercepting the network the devices are on but blockchains have the ability to overcome this due to its decentralised network. No singular person has control with the decentralised network blockchains run on and therefore has the potential to reduce hacking and scamming from the removal of the centralised node evoking trust rather than what is currently distrust.
Regardless of my predictions become true or not, I truly believe that because of society’s continued demand for improvement within communication and technology, social media, memes and memetic warfare as well as hackers will never cease to exist but we may continue to experience a lack of trust and continued deception that could make the internet decrease in popularity to the point a new network is developed, being faster, safer and overall better.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission 2021, Scammers capitalise on pandemic as Australians lose record $851 million to scams, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, viewed 9 October 2021, <https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/scammers-capitalise-on-pandemic-as-australians-lose-record-851-million-to-scams>.
Conway, L & Investopedia 2021, Blockchain Explained, Investopedia, viewed 23 October 2021, <https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blockchain.asp>.
Dawkins, R 1989, The Selfish Gene, Oxford University Press, Google Books, viewed 11 October 2021, pgs. 191- 195, <https://books.google.com.au/books?id=WkHO9HI7koEC&pg=PA192&hl=en&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=shareable%20artifact&f=false>.
Giesea, J., 2016. It’s time to embrace memetic warfare. Defence Strategic Communications, 1, pp.67-7, viewed 10th October 2021, <https://stratcomcoe.org/publications/its-time-to-embrace-memetic-warfare/164>.
Grinnell EDU 2013, Hackers – Subcultures and Sociology, Grinnell.edu, viewed 10 October 2021, <https://haenfler.sites.grinnell.edu/subcultures-and-scenes/hacker-subculture/>.
Gotter, A 2021, Social Media Career Growth in 2021: What You Need to Know – Social Media College, Social Media College, viewed 10 October 2021, <https://www.socialmediacollege.com/blog/social-media-career-growth-in-2021/>.
Haddow, D 2016, Meme warfare: how the power of mass replication has poisoned the US election, the Guardian, The Guardian, viewed 10 October 2021, <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/04/political-memes-2016-election-hillary-clinton-donald-trump>.
Kevin Kelly, 2008. “Better than free,” Edge.org (5 February), at https://www.edge.org/conversation/kevin_kelly-better-than-free, accessed 4 December 2017.Ranger, S 2020, What is the IoT? Everything you need to know about the Internet of Things right now, ZDNet, ZDNet, viewed 17 October 2021, <https://www.zdnet.com/article/what-is-the-internet-of-things-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-iot-right-now/>.