Whatever it takes: A Look at Deflategate

It didn’t take long for accusations of foul play during the AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts to take root in all corners of social media. If you haven’t heard about this story that everyone and their father has been talking about, here is a quick summary.

The National Football League has opened an investigation into why 11 out of 12 of the Patriots’ footballs seemed to be deflated to the point that they did not meet the set standards for air pressure. Due to heavy rain during the AFC Championship Game, many are saying that the deflated footballs were easier to grip, giving the Patriots an unfair advantage. Since each team plays with its own balls when its offense is on the field, the Colts would have no supposed benefits to playing with the deflated balls.

What’s interesting about this story is the superfluous amount of attention it is getting from the media. Deflategate has been a top news story since the news broke shortly after the game on January 18. Not only has this story been circulating around major news outlets, many have taken to the Internet to offer their own two-cents on this so called controversy. The commentary ranges from allegations that the Patriots are cheaters to detailed debunkings of any kind of evidence that would suggest there was foul play involved.

Just this morning, a story in the New York Times examined the work of researchers from MIT and Carnegie Mellon that seemingly support the notion that the balls may have deflated on their own.

Yet an ever-growing army of Patriot detractors continue to trumpet the notion that the team – and the legacies of its leaders, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady – are forever tainted because of Deflategate and Spygate, a 2007 incident where the Patriots were outed for videotaping another team’s defensive signals, ignoring previous league memos to cease and desist in such practices. A petition to ban the Patriots from this weekend’s Super Bowl against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, for instance, has garnered more than 65,000 signatures to date.

Then there are others who say that Deflategate isn’t even worth talking about. In fact, Forbes went so far as to say that “Deflategate is the dumbest sports controversy ever.”

News stations and social media aren’t the only mediums offering extensive coverage of Deflategate. Saturday Night Live aired a sketch that poked fun at Belichick and Brady’s press conference. Additionally, Jimmy Kimmel Live! featured a spoof that showed several actors coming forward as the “locker room guy” who may have been responsible for the deflated footballs. Several famous Massachusetts natives, including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and John Krasinski made appearances in the spoof that has now gotten more than 150,000 views in less than 24 hours on YouTube.

So why do so many of us care about something as prosaic as a few deflated footballs? Why is this story getting more media attention than the actual Super Bowl itself?

Deflategate shows us that everybody loves a scandal, and that the media is as intent as ever to indulge in one.

– Shivani Shendye, A17

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The Faults of Facebook

Only a few short years ago, Facebook reigned supreme, providing the masses with not only an outlet to communicate, but also a means of checking what Suzy wore to the prom in 2008…in case anyone forgot. While it may be that Facebook, as a domain for communication and information sharing, is still thriving, the site has taken on a number of more negative “statuses” in recent years.

Perhaps the harshest of these new reputations is that Facebook is becoming uncool. That’s right, Facebook—the multi billion dollar social media giant with 802 million daily active users—is uncool. Although the losses haven’t seemed to affect Facebook in the slightest, a study conducted by researchers John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler from Princeton University controversially noted that Facebook is on a downward trend of popularity. Additionally, analyst reports, as well as the Facebook CFO himself, have stated that more than 11 million young former-Facebook users have left the site since 2011.

Many Facebook users, in the midst of finals week or looking to get a better handle on their time management, will self impose a Facebook cleanse, temporarily deactivating their accounts for a period of time until they miss that familiar shade of blue. Aside from this practice, though, what is causing young users to deem Facebook unimportant and leave the site has recently been called into question.

One theory for this decline is that Facebook is straying away from its origins as a tool for communication and is becoming a host for unwanted parasites such as spam advertisements, or worse, targeted advertisements. Such advertisements record our online activity—what we like on Facebook and even which websites we view off of Facebook—and then use that information to provide us with advertisements that may suit our preferences. So, for example, if you search for a hotel in New York City, you may see ads for hotels in New York City on your Facebook page. While this may be beneficial for some, others see it as an eerie invasion of privacy and a possible deterrent from using the site, which already provides more than its fair share of spam by way of that friend who is constantly posting updates about what he ate for breakfast.

Another possibility as to why teens are leaving the site is that Facebook makes us sad, as brought to light by a study conducted at the University of Michigan. The reasoning behind feeling the Facebook blues is that it incites social comparison—if you weren’t present at the event that everyone is posting about, unhappiness may set in when you click through the posts and pictures. Since the Internet first rose to popularity, researchers have backed the theory that our increased online presence and decreased personal interactions have heightened our susceptibility to both depression and loneliness.

While what may be triggering teens to leave Facebook is debatable, what is certain is that Facebook usage isn’t always beneficial. What comes with the perks of using the site is a responsibility to be aware of Facebook’s faults. Even though seeing Suzy’s prom dress from 2008 may bring back fond memories of high school, too much Facebook-ing could come at a price.

— Lauren Witte, A14

Social Media and the Syria Crisis

It goes without saying that the events of the Arab Spring will leave a historical legacy of numerous dimensions, impacting permanently how we think about global geopolitics, ethnic/sectarian politics, energy politics, and such concepts as “popular uprising,” democratization, state sovereignty, and international law and the laws of war. All of the states involved in the Arab Spring, including Syria, have also demonstrated that the role of social media in mass movements is a phenomenon that cannot be ignored, whether or not one believes that it can really be credited with any of the success of these movements. (As one early commentator questioned, “Is all you need to topple an entrenched autocratic regime a collection of Facebook updates, YouTube videos and Twitter hashtags?”) It is true that, as has been pointed out, Facebook’s highest-growth markets are the Middle East, Africa and India.

Regardless of one’s views on whether social media’s role has been positive or negative in Syria, it is clear that if nothing else social media has shaped reactions to the conflict all over the world. Videos posted on YouTube have prompted domestic reactions inside the US, specialist internet bloggers from around the world have apparently provided important weapons analysis to governments and human rights groups based on their monitoring of social media, and global leaders such as David Cameron have kept the world apprised of their actions through Twitter (tweets David_Cameron: “The use of chemical weapons in Syria is wrong – and any response wound [sic] have to be legal, proportionate & designed to deter further outrages”). One site has collected an interactive map showing all of the latest tweets on chemical weapons in Syria and the international response (example: “war is business and its [sic] poor people that pay the price, feeling sorry for the people of #Syria #Iraq and the whole #Africa”).

Do you think social media has played an important role in the Syrian crisis? Is this positive or negative? We’re interested to hear your thoughts!