The impact of social media in the digital age

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Basic information

This page is a collection of material suitable for a series of lessons (planned for 8 sessions of 90 minutes). Each lesson will shift the focus to a different instance of social media use and impact and provide links to authentic language material that can be analysed and evaluated in classroom discussions and written production. The sequence in which it is presented here may need adaption to other teaching contexts. (Original context: Klassenstufe 11, Englisch E-Kurs/Leistungskurs)


No. Topic Title Description Comment
#1 How shallow is online-dating? The importance of being Kushagra The title is taken from the subtitle of a web article (originally designed as transition from a previous series on Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of being Earnest")
#2 Facebook's plans for future growth Zucking up to the future lover How facebook is opening up new business models along with new ways into our most private life - trying to conquer the dating market.
#3 Social media as a means of keeping in touch Staying friends? Many people use facebook to "stay in touch" with old friends and acquaintances. How realistic is this endeavour?
#4 Civic engagement and democratic participation through social media Fertile soil for grass-roots? Social media and its connective power allows for a whole new dimension of activism and organisation
#5 How social engineering and big scale manipulation of public opinion can change the world From Cambridge to Trumpistan The dangers social media reach and quality pose to democratic processes.
#6 How big data works and why people work with it Big data, big chances business Statistical evaluation of data gained through observation of social media habits does not play a prominent role in many people's life - not yet. It's the enormous potential for abuse that makes big data dangerous in the long run.
#7 How the filter-bubble leads to our world becoming smaller when we use the world wide web today. It's a small world Internet companies are watching our every move and try to predict things that might relevant to us - and show us only those. What does this mean for the "informational freedom" of our minds.
#8 How ever improving artificial intelligences may threaten our near and far futures. Knowledge is power - are we loosing both? Deep-learning enables machines to improve their performance by modifying their own structure and limits. Can this unlimited potential be contained?

Content collection


Title Type Original Memento
"Swiping right: Tinder's list of most-wanted names holds some surprises" Text / Web article [1] [2]
"If Jane Austen characters used dating apps" Video + Text / Commentary [3] [4] (text only)
An "online date" Picture [5] [6]


Title Type Original Memento
"Facebook announces dating app focused on 'meaningful relationships'" Text / News article [7] [8]
"Facebook's dating app is finally making privacy invasion sexy" Text / News article [9] [10]
"Tech is turning love into a rightwing game" Text / News article [11] [12]
"Facebook fires engineer accused of stalking, possibly by abusing data access" Text / News article [13] [14]
"Facebook To Join The Dating Game As Privacy Concerns Abound" Audio / Radio report transcript mp3 transcript
"How Facebook plans to disrupt internet dating- BBC News" Video / News coverage [15] n/a


Title Type Original Memento
"How Facebook changed our friendships" Text / News article [16] [17]
"Social media gets a bad press, but it was a lifeline for me" Text / News article [18] [19]
"Facebook data harvesting and the hunt for the 'friend' who betrayed me" Text / News article [20] [21]
"Facebook is not your friend" Text / News article [22] [23]
"Tired of texting? Google tests robot to chat with friends for you " Text / News article [24] [25]
"Facebook alternatives for keeping in touch with friends" Text / Web article [26] [27]
"Dinner night out with friends" Picture [28] [29]
"Old style friends" Picture [30] [31]


Title Type Original Memento
"How social media saved socialism" Text / News article [32] [33]
"Social media without grassroots action not enough for a winning campaign" Text / News article [34] [35]
"Isn't it time for TRUE democracy?" - Jon Barnes - TEDxGroningen Video / Talk [36]  %
"Digital Democracy" - Carl Miller - TEDxAthens Video/ Talk [37]  %


Title Type Original Memento
"Social media bots threaten democracy. But we are not helpless" Text / News commentary [38] [39]
"'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia" Text / Magazine article [40] [41]
"Two popular conservative Twitter personalities were just outed as Russian trolls" Text / News report [42] [43]
"Hamilton68" Website / Propaganda tracker [44]  %


Title Type Original Memento
"UK public faces mass invasion of privacy as big data and surveillance merge" Text / News article [45] [46]
"UK startup 'Internet Eyes' crowdsources retail surveillance" Text / News article [47] [48]


Title Type Original Memento
"How social media filter bubbles and algorithms influence the election" Text / News article [49] [50]


Title Type Original Memento
"Facebook AI Creates Its Own Language In Creepy Preview Of Our Potential Future" Text / News article [51] [52]
"Killer robots? Musk and Zuckerberg escalate row over dangers of AI" Text / News article [53] [54]
"Stephen Hawking: AI will be 'either best or worst thing' for humanity" Text / News article [55] [56]
"Elon Musk leads 116 experts calling for outright ban of killer robots" Text / News article [57] [58]
"Women must act now, or male-designed robots will take over our lives" Text / Commentary [59] [60]
"Alexa, Can You Prevent Suicide?" Text / News article [61] [62]
"Don’t worry about AI going bad – the minds behind it are the danger" Text / Commentary [63] [64]
"New AI can guess whether you're gay or straight from a photograph " Text / News article [65] [66]
"How to persuade a robot that you should get the job" (920w) Text / Commentary [67] [68]
"We should be more afraid of computers than we are" Video / Commentary [69]  %
"Siri is my agony aunt – but is telling big tech my innermost feelings a bad idea? " Text / News report [70] [71]
"It's not too late to save the world from killer robots" (910w) Text / Commentary [72] [73]
"Terminator 2: The Genesis of Skynet" Video / Movie excerpt [74]  %
"South Korea university demonstrates people-carrying robot" Video / Demonstration [75]  %



Four-corners activity with horoscope-like name/personality descriptions (taken for example from [76]) of first names present in class, or e.g. Ernest). People read the descriptions and take guesses at the names/stand with their own name.


Word-cloud; students associate freely and try to find a common/linking/base topic behind the given words: cookie, Payback, Amazon, Trend-Watch App, sweepstakes,