Douglas Rushkoff's article, titled "Social Media and the Perils of Looking for Likes," poignantly depicts the dangerous extent to which teens and young adults would go to win their friends' or peers' approval through "likes" and "favorites" on social media, with total disregard to the moral and ethical norms expected of them by society. Further, the writer depicts how multi-dollar companies have made this "like" and "favorite" business a money-making spot, and how they would do anything to reap financial gain, even if it means blatantly taking advantage of unsuspecting kids who are perhaps so eager for sponsorships, and also too young to understand exactly what this kind of exchange entails. The writer employs ethos (expert testimony) and pathos (guilt and worry), which he uses to create sensationalism and engage the audience in a bid to manipulate their emotion (Wright). Through purposeful structure, alternating points-of-view, and meaningful word choice, the writer adds emotion and depth to the idea that this "living for likes" concept is yielding positive payoffs for million-dollar sponsoring companies, but at the same time gradually eroding the values and perspectives that we have struggled to instill in our kids all their life. In so doing, he is able to persuade his audience, the general American population, that there is need to understand exactly what social media is doing to us, our culture, our perspectives, and our values - because only then can we identify the negatives and address them, even as we embrace the positives.
Throughout the article, the writer makes use of alternating points-of-view in an attempt to accentuate the differing perspectives of popularity-obsessed teens and profit-driven sponsoring companies in this "likes" business. He demonstrates that whereas the kids willingly do it for fame, popularity and approval, the companies do it for economic gain; but in the end, both parties benefit. He makes reference to promotions and ads that often require kids to re-tweet or like a certain brand for a chance to be re-tweeted or liked back to millions of the brand's followers. At the end of the day, the kid gets his likes, and the company gets a clear picture of its influencers and potential customers. When he says that the kids "pay with their likes, their favorites and their follows, and get paid with a new path to popularity or fame," and that "they must demonstrate that they have social media followings in order to find distribution and sponsors," the writer appeals to ethos, trying to put himself in some positive light with the audience by showing his impartiality and appreciation of both perspectives (Rushkoff). He uses this as a strategy to demonstrate his honesty and to build credibility for his ideas, thereby avoiding a situation where part of the audience falls out with him immediately, on grounds of bias. He attempts to depict the payoffs resulting from this "likes" business as some form of exchange, beneficial to both sides. This he does with the aim of connecting with the audience in totality and getting them to connect and identify with the topic, regardless of the side to which they belong.
In fact, the writer does not introduce the idea that something is amiss, and that these sponsoring companies are misusing these kids, until the third-last paragraph of the article. This is by all means a strategy to prevent an early-fall-out between himself and the corporate world, which is also part of his audience. The idea informing this particular strategy must have been that if someone disagrees, then let them do so only after reading the full article. .
To further strengthen his argument, that despite both parties benefiting, the kids lose much more in terms of values and perspectives, the writer makes use of statements and testimonies from experts. The Oxford Dictionary defines an expert as a person with authoritative and comprehensive skill or knowledge in a particular area. From this definition, the vocally-talented teenage girl from San Diego and 13-year-old Baby Scumbag qualify as experts in the field of social media. The writer uses their statements and opinions to reinforce and fortify his claim that teens, hungry for approval and fame, are gradually throwing away the moral fabric of society; and sponsors are doing nothing to address this. In fact, they are only aggravating the situation by increasingly using one's popularity to gauge their eligibility for sponsorship. These first-hand expert testimonies increase the credibility of the writer's arguments and make his claims more believable.
The writer also heavily relies on pathos to persuade his audience and manipulate their emotional dispositions so that they are more open to the claims and arguments presented in the article. His choice of words, for instance, creates a friendly and inviting tone that engages the reader and makes them feel as part of a special group. When, for instance, he says "our kids," "our social media platforms," "our social media users," he gives a direct address to his audience, where he engages their attention and creates some form of connection that makes this a common problem for the entire American citizenry; one that requires people to work together in finding or devising a solution. To better demonstrate the actual power of the inclusive possessive form "our," we can picture for a moment how it would feel had the writer perhaps said, these "kids are not the customers here; they are both the product, and the unwitting labor" (Rushkoff). Well, it obviously would not have the personal and confiding touch it has when he refers to them as "our kids." It excludes him from the reader and makes this appear as less of a concern for him. The inclusive form of speech was therefore used to create commonality between the writer and his readers, and to bring about a confiding and friendly tone that would make the latter more appreciative of the writer's arguments.
Having created this friendly, inclusive, and confiding atmosphere for his readers, the writer then appeals to their sense of guilt -- is this really pressure worth putting on our kids? He evokes the emotion of worry, most likely directed at the parents and guardians of this group of interest, when he mentions that social media networks and the associated obsession for fame are creating an odd culture that is threatening the linguistic standing of our teens, as well as their moral fabric. The expert testimonies obtained from Baby Scumbag and the vocally-talented teenage girl from San Diego, both of which prove the writer's claim that the moral and cultural values we all strive to instill in our children from their formative years are gradually losing significance, at least in the context of social media networks, have been used to stir and intensify the emotion of worry, with the aim of getting parents to view this issue from the writer's perspective.
Having captured the reader's attention and emotion, the writer employs three key strategies to put across his point in a more powerful and cognizant way. To begin with, he makes use of rhetorical questions -- for instance, when he asks "is the currency value neutral, or does it come with an agenda of its own?" he seeks to engage the reader and make them more willing to read on. He presents the reader with an opportunity to evaluate the claims and arguments presented in the article, but requires them to be engaged in order to do so. Hyperbole is another outstanding writing style employed by the writer. He figuratively exaggerates his ideas to appeal to the reader's emotion and create a persuasive effect. For instance, whilst we all know that not all teens are obsessed with acquiring likes and followings on social media, we obviously do appreciate the fact that the writer's…