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Wednesday, 07 September 2016 07:48

Good Reads - From the underrated danger of social media to the spirit of the Olympic Games

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Photo: wackystuff (flickr); Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

Our editor Isabell Wutz points you in the direction of a few essays and articles guaranteed to make you ponder. Read about the underrated danger of social media in times of terrorisms, how different languages change personalities, and how a young Chinese swimmer reminds everyone what the Olympic Games really are about. 

Isabell, Sixth Sense and Legs editor

isabell

 The underrated danger of social media news in times of terrorims

Almost two months ago an 18year-old man shot several people at a Munich shopping mall. Not long after the news spread, my phone started buzzing with several texts from friends and family living in the city assuring me of their safety. At this point little was known about the incident but the rumour mill was already in overdrive. It was then a friend messaged me, asking if my family was alright concluding with the sentence: “I would have guessed that it catches Berlin or Cologne first…crazy times”. Here I realized how dangerous unfiltered information and speculation can be, especially on publicly accessible social media channels. Interpreting events on the grounds of only a few confirmed facts and much uncertain information can lead us to premature conclusions and as seen in the case of Munich, fear, panic and false accusations. Particularly, in these, well-described, “crazy times”, people tend to quickly condemn situations without having the required knowledge, and thereby we contribute to creating and spreading potentially false narratives online for everyone to see and believe. 

This article by Jetzt (in German) raises this under-considered issue, asking the question: Would there have been such panic in Munich without Facebook and Twitter? Many might argue that social media helps in times of need and yes, the #offenetür (open door) initiative in Munich shows a positive impact of the use of these channels. However, would people even have felt the need to create such initiative without the fear and misinformation? It seems that most importantly we need to be sensible about how we consider the kind of information reaching us through social media.
The internet is always in a rush and with news available 24/7, with the result that objective and rational information can hardly keep up. This can lead to ill-informed crowds. this piece from the Economist even states that automatically assuming that terrorists are behind every violent incident is a dream for Islamist terror and propaganda. Thus, despite fear and uncertainty, it is important to stay calm and wait for confirmed information before condemning incidents and spreading around half-knowledge and speculations. These interpretations only incite emotions and create panic and misconceptions. However, telling people how to react to tragedies is difficult, in her article Nicoletta Enria explores and questions common reactions.

 

Languages change personalities

English is the most widely understood language. Thus a great deal of people master two or more languages nowadays. As a person who lives and studies in two languages which are not my mother tongue, I highly recommend this piece from the Economist which explores possible personality changes due to the use of different languages. Every language has its own unique form which leads to different forms of expression. Translating certain words from one language into another is sometimes not possible and can lead to struggles, misunderstandings or hilarious incidents.
Therefore, the new findings of a correlation between personality and language which are presented in this article are interesting for everyone who speaks or learns multiple languages. Did you know, for example, that Greeks are likely to interrupt their opponent due to their word order? The Greek sentence structure often starts with a verb which already gives a lot of information at the beginning of the sentence and therefore makes it easier for Greek speakers to interrupt each other.

 

 Ibtihaj Muhammad small

   Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen (wikimedia commons); Licence: CC BY 3.0 -  Ibtihaj Muhammad

Forget the Olympic Medal Table

The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro was the international sports event of the summer and media all over the world broadcasted many hours of coverage from the tournament. As an enthusiastic watcher who lives in Europe I suffered from the time difference which meant missing out on interesting final competitions which mostly were aired during the night. Therefore, every morning I tended to check the news for what has happened the night before. My daily browsing showed that the media coverage of the Olympic Games goes much further than reporting on sporting achievements of the athletes. One article, published by Al Jazeera, discusses the widely debated issue of women’s clothing while competing. As the volleyball match between Germany and Egypt was shown, coverage focused upon the hijab wearing women, more for their attire than their sporting performances. Some see this juxtaposition of hijab and bikini as a symbol of culture clash, others as a symbol of the joint affinity of sports. But why do we still have to talk about it? Aren’t the Olympic Games all about looking beyond religion, ethnicity or race? Rachel Shabi, the author of the piece, splendidly raises and discusses the question: How about focusing on the sport instead of the hijab?


At the same time, it seems that because of the run for medals and the constant obsession with the medal table, people forget the actual spirit of the Olympic Games. When Pierre de Coubertin reestablished the Olympic Games in 1896 his philosophy was not about winning but rather about the struggle in competing and essentially the spirit of having fought well. Fu Yuanhui, a remarkably cheerful young female swimmer from China, became very popular on social media for her approach at the Games, which was not “winning at all cost”. In contradiction to the long-standing reputation of gold-hunting Chinese athletes, she spoke of her performance with humility and even broke one of global sport's enduring taboos by discussing the impact of periods on women’s achievements. Her intervention encouraged the media to call for a rethinking of the meaning and values of the Olympic Games, including the Wall Street Journal, which called her “a primordial girl”.

Last modified on Friday, 30 September 2016 08:40

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