Can Social Media Save Humanity?
Now before you click out of here, let me explain that I am not a self-appointed social media guru, a consultant or a Harvard professor. I don’t want to sell you anything, except perhaps an idea. I am a “simple country blogger” who spends a lot of time on the Internet posting, tweeting, sharing, following and friending. I read what you write, and perhaps you read me too. And like me, you’ve probably heard the drumbeat- a kind of questioning about what all this is for.
Currently there is a lot being said about social media, it’s destruction by commercial interests, parrots and swearing sailors. Expose yourself to any of the most popular communities and the hucksters and hawkers who guarantee that you can make a million bazillion dollars on Facebook will likely trample you. If you’re not careful about whom you allow into your online social sphere you may end up learning a hell of a lot more about @hornmeister’s sexual preferences than you bargained for. Is this all silliness, or worse, a colossal waste of time and human effort?
I think there’s something more going on here.
Since men and women first began collecting in tribes we’ve had unique ways of using current technologies to communicate with one another- from smoke signals to stone tablets to the Heidelberg Press.
It strikes me that Twitter in particular is very much like a digital “town crier,” or perhaps even a monumental version of the children’s game of “telephone.” Someone says something original, fascinating or outrageous and instantly the town crier goes to work delivering the message- which is then passed on by hundreds of thousands of people to those they know in a kind of near-instantaneous virtual conversation over the garden fence.
By this simple means, governments topple (Egypt), Neighbors rally to help those in need (Japan) and personal reputations are destroyed (Charlie Sheen). That’s just in the last 45 days.
I’m not saying social media causes such events; merely that it now plays a huge and essential infrastructural role in supporting them. Today the only real truths are those we tell personally to each other since commercial journalism has so miserably failed us all.
Corporate interests tend to fear (or are at the least cautiously suspicious) of this “new media” which puts customers in charge of the game. It’s a similar kind of fear I suspect that the German occupation forces initially had of the French Underground during World War II. (Where will they strike next?) Senior executives should have been listening all along, but they didn’t because they didn’t have to. There’s an uneasy shift here. Is it really surprising that the first reaction by the commercial sector to these vast networks is to try to control them by buying them off? I sense fingers twitching over the holster.
Here’s the part in all of this that I think has the potential to save us.
Despite prejudice, racism, rampant violence, sterilized mass murder, unjust occupation in foreign lands, economic terrorism and every other scourge human beings endlessly perpetrate upon each other, we also have a persistent natural tendency to want to connect. To communicate. To understand.
We’ve been herded into suburbs, separated into “single-family dwellings,” cordoned behind community guard stations and 11-foot fences. Yeah, we’ve bought it all. Yet, still we reach out to each other for connection. Funny isn’t it?
It’s a well-known fact that social communities sniff out a poser in nothing flat. Such communities call for us to put aside our egos and be OK with being wrong every once in a while- or even most of the time. You don’t have to be right, just be who you really are. And herein lies the answer I think.
What happens when human beings put aside their need to be right…when we find a place in which each of us can be our authentic selves and share our thoughts without fear of judgment or retribution?
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m no Pollyanna. I realize that some of the nastiest, cruelest human behavior has originated online. But among the tens of millions on the Internet, the snarks are few and we are many. Their predominance is the stuff of urban myth, like razor blades in candy apples- amplified by a media we no longer can (or should) trust. Fear each other not.
Perhaps in its own strange way, social media is teaching us to be human again. To pay it forward, all the while knowing that our fellow (wo)man will do the same for us. Because that’s how the world really operates. Quite a shift, right?
The only question is, can we take this worldwide humanity-changing conversation off line? Tweet Up for #save_humanity anyone?
What do you think? Is all this tweeting, liking, sharing and mashing a colossal waste? Our human salvation? Something in between?
- Social Media Comes with Risk and Opportunities – The IIA Releases First-of-their-kind Publications on Auditing Social Media (prweb.com)
- Independent Brains ” Journalism & Social Media (policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- Social Media in Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens (alternetviews.wordpress.com)