Rhetoric in Social Media

Social media plays a huge role in modern society.  One of the most difficult questions to answer is whether that role is positive or negative.  For instance, social media sites such as Facebook enhance advertisement opportunities by allowing companies to reach out to the public.  On the other hand, they can lead to negative ramifications such as cyber bullying, leaking of private information, and the destruction of relationships.  When it comes to the discussion of rhetoric, it is once again difficult to determine the nature of the connotations of social media.

Rhetoric is the art of using language to successfully persuade and impact others, and when it comes to social media this art is often overlooked.  However, the rhetoric involved in appealing to others through sites such as Facebook cannot be analyzed in the same terms as rhetoric used in daily life and nonviolent argumentation.  For instance, in order to catch a viewer’s attention, a Facebook status must be short, to the point, and intensely interesting.  Therefore, rhetoric on Facebook is not as elegant, detailed, or developed as the rhetoric utilized in a face-to-face setting.  Nevertheless, rhetoric can still be utilized much more successfully than it currently is in the world of social media.

One of the rhetorical benefits of social media is the opportunity it provides to build one’s own ethos.  However, this does not mean simply bragging about one’s accomplishments through egotistic statuses.  Instead, ethos can be built effectively by creating unassuming yet complimentary profiles and statuses that focus on positive impacts on society.  Too often, social media contributes to a negative image of its users because they do not monitor what material they post to the Internet.

Another element of rhetoric that can be taken advantage of through social media is pathos.  For example, many charitable campaigns are started through Facebook using emotional persuasion to gather more support.  These campaigns draw on personal experiences with the cause, sympathy, and empathy to influence Facebook users to join the campaign and spread awareness through status updates.  However, these campaigns lose their credibility if an effective ethos has not been established.

While rhetoric is adapting constantly as communication methods evolve in modern society, it is often difficult to identify rhetoric within these new mediums of contact.  Within social media, rhetoric is often underutilized or incorrectly utilized.  If social media users learn to take advantage of rhetoric within sites such as Facebook, they will build their credibility through ethos and be able to create more of an impact.  They will also gain the ability to use pathos to gather support for causes they believe in.  Social media can be a platform upon which to develop an influential position in society, but only if rhetoric is utilized effectively.

3 thoughts on “Rhetoric in Social Media

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  3. This is a really interesting post and I think you bring up a good point that facebook and twitter seem to have created their own rhetoric. Like you said in order to write a “successful” status, it must be short and to the point, but interesting enough to grab people’s attention. People also like to capitalize off of commonplaces on the internet to get them attention like posting, “if you love your mom comment, if not keep scrolling.” Of course I love my mom but I just don’t want that spam on my wall, nice try facebook user. I also think you get to see some really bad attempts at pathos on insecure female teenager’s pages when they post pictures of themselves with the caption, “so ugly :(“ an obvious attempt to appeal to the emotion of the viewer and then feed her ego. I think social media is a great place to observe how rhetoric today is used and also how it is changing.

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