Social Media: The turf on which good & evil fight it out to the death.
I hear so many diverse comments from both ends of the spectrum: almost from “Social Media SUCKS!” to “Social Media is a PANACEA!”
There is no doubt that many good, bad & simply ugly pursuits express their views through the various Social Media networks. But does that make it right or wrong; good or bad?
I THINK WE’RE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTIONS!
Let me explain …
In its simplest definition, MEDIUM is an agency or means of doing something
In its own right it is neutral; it has no bias, just like water is a medium in which we can float, swim or drown. The outcome is not the fault of the water per se; it is based on the skills, aptitude etc of the person using it. To the accomplished swimmer, water is something to be enjoyed & embraced. To the non-swimmer, it is something of danger & to be avoided. But even for the strong swimmer, powerful currents & fast flowing water provide a threat or danger!
In a similar way, Social Media is a means of communication; a route for expression & engagement.
How good or bad it is depends not on the medium itself (except that it has to be technologically robust & able to handle the basics of communication) but on the person using it. Social Media is no different to any other type of communication.
However, Social Media in its written form suffers from a lack of tone of voice, facial expression, touch, volume etc. It is a basic expression of what we mean & what we say. But, in lacking the visual human elements, such as a smile or frown, the words are pretty open to interpretation of the reader UNLESS we take time to structure what we say more fully, leaving less space for misinterpretation. We must be very careful to not hold a conversation in our head & only express half of that conversation on paper (or tablet/PC/phone). The reader rarely takes time to ask the types of questions we would in a face-to-face setting; they draw their own conclusions & those conclusions can be heavily influenced by something as little as how the reader is feeling at that time!
In other words, Social Media, the medium through which we express ourselves actually becomes a source of misinterpretation, argument, fall-out & in short, problems through our own oversights, inadequacies & sometimes, poor use of language.
A spin-off from this is also that we can express ourselves through words from the safety of our room. If we’re not careful, we can become Social Media Warriors who embark on a crusade of putting everyone else right. In some cases this can be escalated in people with mental illness or psychological disturbance to become stalking, abuse or even vindictive & victimisation. Once again, the medium per se is not the problem though almost universal access & extent of the Internet makes it so much easier for the perpetrators to have a far reaching & poisonous effect.
Social Media can become AntiSocial Media under the human touch.
The people using Social Media are THE single main cause of its effectiveness for good or bad, both those writing & those reading. We see, hear, experience far more at the push of a button than we ever could before when communication was solely through the printed word. Instant accessibility is part of the power to influence for good or bad presented by Social Media.
An interesting facet of Social Media networks is not only the coming together of like interests but the coming together of like minds. In short, Social Media can result in groups (cliques) who all like the same thing, see something in a particular way or aim for the same ideal. If these groups grow to be very large, they can almost take on a disproportional amount of influence. A large number of people posting the same information can lead to a distorted view of reality, much in the same way that just reading one particular newspaper gives us a very distorted world view & sense of reality.
I could continue this discussion for ages & still barely scratch the surface, but as with any situation where we may want to bring change, we have to start somewhere!
Although censoring, filtering, monitoring activities are an important part of protection within Social Media networks, they are equally open to unscrupulous users & therefore, equally open to abuse. Therefore, they are NOT the full answer.
So if Social Media is here to stay in one form or another & censorship/controlling content does not solve all of the problems, what is the answer?
Without being too blunt, WE ARE!
Surely, it is in training the user that a medium is used to its greatest potential. You would only need to compare one of my paintings with that of Leonardo da Vinci to know who was using paint & canvas (the medium) to its greatest benefit & effect! 🙂 The difference? da Vinci was a master, trained & skilled; I’ve never really had any formal training. Would I become a da Vinci if I did have training? No, but I would be so much better & understand so much more about the use of colour, space etc.In the same way, it is what we train & install into our children that manifests itself in verbal & physical communication & that manifests itself in communication on Social Media.
If I hate people in life, that hatred will be expressed in all my communication in one form or another.
If I love people in life, that love will be expressed in all of my communications.
Rather than fire-fighting & apportioning blame to a neutral medium that can be used to achieve great good & harm by its users, we should tackle the problem at the root: our personal value & perception of need. The sooner we begin to instil REAL VALUES into our children, such as,
- You are loved, will make mistakes but through that we love you & support you, or
- It does not matter what people think you should look like, you are beautiful AS YOU ARE, or
- You don’t need to put work first, be strong in every situation & solve problems with violence, being vulnerable is good, or
the sooner the need for dominance, bullying, sniping, bitching & control will become a minority rather than majority activity.
We need to encourage each other too that change will happen when we embrace it & enable it. That WILL NOT be overnight, but I would rather work hard for a shift is basic behaviour in a generation through letting people know their value & worth than push for short-term solutions that put out one fire, only to leave the coals smouldering ready for the next winds to fan them into a raging fire.
So, is Social Media good or bad?
I would say it is whatever people make it but if we want to swing it towards good then we need to start at ‘ground zero’, the baseline & that is we need to effect a change in people through a demonstration of their worth & value, not just tell them or try short-term, on the hoof, tackle the problem not the cause type responses.
Take care until next time …