Facebook Live: Love it or Lose It?
By: Cameron B. White
Social media has long been a great influence in our current day, from quick fads to motivational videos; much of our entertainment comes from our social media platforms. Due to the raving success, ease of access, and diversity of content, many activists have taken initiative to spread their views on digital platforms to gain followers and raise awareness. Thusly, a new wave of consciousness, activism, and democracy has taken flight. This newest form of activism has led many movements, both negative and positive. With the inclination of activism displayed on social media, I believe that we must delineate the effectiveness of such. One of the newer forms of social media protest has become live feeds of the instances taking place. Although live feeds are a great asset to showcase the heat, passion, and devotion of the protest and the attendees; they also have limitations. Which may demean the protest as vandal acts, ruining the efforts of the protesters. The live feeds that influence much of our knowledge about social justice movements, connects with civic engagement because we are influenced an educated by such posting. Reading forward will allow you to understand the positives and negatives about incorporating live feeds in social media social justice campaigns.
What are Live Feeds?
Understanding what live feeds are is integral to understanding the problem that we are address. Live feeds are videos that are recorded that display the exact moment we, the present audience, sees as well. You often times hear the term which has been coined by social media influencer and comedian “we live baby” to signify that the recording party has started a live feed one of their social media platforms.
Why Should We ‘Go Live’?
According to Derek Johnson, author of Activation Activism and Cecelia Kang of the New York Times most people now receive their news from social media, thusly live videos are pillars to raising awareness for any cause. Understanding such it is in the best interest of the organizers to rely on social media to raise awareness for their cause. Additionally, going live on social media, as mentioned has its positive and negatives. According to Laura Donovan, blogger and social media enthusiast, “2017 is the year of video”, thusly we can only expect forward movement from here on out (Donovan, 2017). Donovan also argues that “videos provide higher engagement with context, stronger consumer attention and improves you SEO” (search engine optimization) which is the formula used by Google to calculate the ranking for what people are looking for (Donovan, 2017). Using Donovan’s justification of video, specifically live streams we understand that live streaming is one of the quickest ways to heighten engagement for any cause.
Aside from the ease of access, Donovan argues that “Facebook Live Videos provide a more intimate level of engagement with an audience” (Donovan, 2017). This is made possible because we are able to interact with views instantaneously. It is also argued that such videos create better relationships because they are unrehearsed allowing the raw reactions, and emotions of the viewed parties to be seen; while seemingly, facilitating human interaction; providing a personal connection between the viewer and the cause. Additionally, according to Business2Community.com Facebook Live Videos are watched 3 times longer than regular videos. (2017). From these gatherings we can discern that live videos provide an ease of access, facilitate more intimate interaction amongst peer groups, and are watched on average three times longer than that of regular videos.
Promoting a protest, or any social event must be ran like a business for optimal turn out. Businesses understand their peak hours, clientele, and what their consumers like, love or hate. They are able to track such details about their company due to their sales, supply-and-demand algorithms, and many other things. Sadly, social movements, and/or protests cannot be tracked through their sales, therefore, many time dates, times, and social media blast are scheduled whenever we think the most popular time is, rather than what has been proven to be the most popular time. Luckily, with the help of live videos all users of live feeds are able to understand what peak hours are for their specific fan base or supporters. According to, Georgia Hatton reporter from SocialMediaToday,
“Facebook Live and other live streaming applications has well-developed in-stream analytics. In addition to the standard Facebook Insights video stats. Live analytics have been refined even further to offer information on peak live viewers figures, total reach, reaction, comments, and shares. Having access to this user-friendly analytics dashboard makes it easy for you to see what content works and what does not—knowing what type of live content your audience responds well to means you can create more of it,” (Hatton, 2017).
From the above exert we are able to understand that with the use of Facebook Live, social justice movements and/or protest that are set to be viewed on live videos no longer have to blindly guess when the best time for streaming is, what content their viewers like best, or the interaction amongst peers.
Staying Away from ‘Going Live’?
It is very evident that there are many benefits to live videos, when trying to engage the audience. However, as mentioned there are also negatives to such videos. As stated by Laura Donovan, live videos, allow the viewers to capture the raw emotions and reactions from the viewed party, which is great, until the reaction of the captured party is not congruent to the motif of the video. For instance, if there was a march organized for prison reform, that took place on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh, NC that was filled with support of the detainees, for equal rights, safe living conditions, and just treatment by guard and one participant gets rowdy with the security that is there for safety precautions. Many other participants are ‘going live’ on their personal Facebook pages, but using the hashtags that are associated with the entire cause. One person decides to capture the interaction of their fellow protester and the security guard, but things get out of hand, and the protestor begins to riot rather than protest and all of the interactions are captured on live feed. Due to the uncensored authenticity of live videos at home viewers are able to see the misrepresentation of the single protest, which may tarnish their ideals of the overall movement. Seemingly, because live videos are not deleted immediately after the end of the video, the misrepresentation of the protest is able to replayed copious times, reaching more and more people further tarnishing the reputation of the movement that its organizers. The organizers of such protest work entirely too hard, to evoke change only to be debunked by videos that perpetuate false narratives. One way to derail these narratives is by allowing civic engagement to be experienced in person, rather than digitally.
Another argument that is made is that Live Feeds allow viewers and organizers to have more intimate interactions; which has been proven to be true. However, according to Alessandro Bessi author of Personality Traits and Echo Chambers on Facebook, “in online social media, users show the tendency to select information that confirms their preexisting beliefs.” (Bessi, 2016). Here it is understood that the interactions people are having are typically between people who are in support of identical causes. Thusly, the people who are watching from the comfort of their home only seek out and see comments of those who are too in support. This bubble of like-mindedness is formally called an echo chamber. Thusly, as much as live feeds, and instantaneous comments wish to facilitate democracy, and civic engagement research proves that it may not be as effective as they would hope. Additionally, as per Emily Parker of The Washington Post and author of Now I Know Who My Comrades Are,
“Solidarity is essential for political action. You probably won’t attend a protest, for example, if nobody else is going to be there. In your echo chamber, at least, you know you are not alone. That knowledge is not enough for real political change, but it’s a start.”
Here we understand that echo chambers may not be completely bad, because we are able to seek solidarity, respect, and like-mindedness; however, we must not become complacent in our own bubbles. In order to properly navigate social media and live feeds we must take the information we gain from such mediums are spread our beliefs to others. Seemingly, although there is a great argument presented that speaks towards the positivity towards live feeds and civic engagement, we cannot ignore the potential risks associated with such advancements.
Understanding both the negatives and positives of going live, from the arguments presented it is clear that there is not clear yes or no whether or not we should use live videos. Like most things it is not black and white; the use of live videos is conditional contingent upon the use and the intention. Live videos facilitate a web of interconnectedness that allows instantaneous communication, commentary, and education. When used correctly we are able to communication multiple messages that are able to be spread amongst a large body of people. However, when we do not navigate outside of our filter bubbles or echo chambers live videos can foster groupthink, and complacency. Knowing the perfect balance between both is imperative to effectively using live feeds as a communication tool for social media activism.
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