Humanity and social media

These thoughts have been in my head for a while now. I thought it best to write them down, before they disappear 🙂

Humanity and social media

When I was ten years old I, for a brief moment, regained my faith in Santa Claus. See, it’d been a Christmas Eve like all others, with family and dinner and pestering siblings and watching traditional Christmas shows on TV, when there came a knock on the door. In stepped Santa – well, it was a neighbor in a Santa costume, but I did not pay any notice. My eyes were glued to the big Christmas present jutting up from the bag slung over his shoulder. As the presents were being handed out, I could barely contain myself. When the turn came to me, I tugged it from the hands of the Santa-wannabe and frenetically began to tear the paper wrapping off. Finally, there it was.

64K of raw processing power, a CPU of a stunning 1MHz, three (3!) channels of sound, it was the ultimate computer. This Commodore 64 would be my entrance to the world of computers. I wanted to shout my joy to the rooftops… or at least to my closest friends. I did not, however, call them on my iPhone. Nor did I send an sms via a battered Nokia. I didn’t open Skype or MSN Messenger or Gmail chat or even an IRC channel. I had no way of letting the humanverse know my excitement through Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, MySpace, Bebo or any other forum. I couldn’t take a picture of the shiny new toy with my mobile phone and upload it to Flickr. What did I do? I ran over to my friend and asked him to come over, of course.

Now, 25 years later, it is hard to grasp just what changes have happened during a quarter of a century. The birth and growth of the Internet, the development of faster-than-fast processors, graphic cards and hard drives, a quality we couldn’t dream of back then… Not to mention all the programs, all the social media and the goatxe hype, for instance.

A question that is constantly raised as humanity becomes more and more of an online race and less and less of a face-to-face race, is a simple one. Is it good or bad? Many have pointed out the obvious – with less “real” interaction, there is less of that which makes us human involved; touch, smell, facial expressions, closeness, social interaction. Others, on the other hand, point out the equally obvious; we now have possibilities previously unheard of, to connect with people around the globe who share the same interests, beliefs or goals as we ourselves.

So, it’s good in some ways, and bad in some ways. As life in general is, I’d argue.
One of the fastest rising social media forums, Facebook, has allowed us to get in touch with old friends, has let us be constantly updated with info, photos, thoughts and silly links, keeping us in contact with our friends (yes, and also our “friends” of course), which in most ways is a good thing. Another social media, Twitter, brings the matter even closer. Within a space of 140 characters anyone, from Britney Spears to a 12-year old in Kuala Lumpur can say whatever they want to say, to anyone who cares to listen.

As I’ve been following and engaging in Twitter, and gotten in touch with wonderful ideas like Twistori, I’ve started to lean more and more towards this being a good thing. No, it’s not good that people communicate only via computers and mobile platforms. No, it’s not good that there is so much noise that the few clear notes are hard to hear. No, it’s not good that anonymity gives spiteful and angry people the chance to spew venom at unfortunate victims. But there are upsides as well.

See, I believe that Twitter, in all its’ simplicity, is the first step towards the great equalization of the species. Twitter is the first media that lets everyone compete on next-to equal terms, where ideas and thoughts, art and prose, genius and creativity is given the exact same amount of space to thrive, and via ReTweets find bigger and bigger audiences.

Agreed, a simple Tweet is a scream for recognition in a sea of screams. But at least all the screams are 140 characters long, and in the same font and layout!
Furthermore, I believe that Twitter is a great possibility to promote understanding between nations, people, genders, religion and races. For every spiteful xenophobic, there are thousands of normal, loving, caring people. For every rash thought and provocative comment, there are many more thoughtful and considerate tweets. And when you look at any given hot Twitter topic, what strikes me the most is how similar we all are. We’re all the same, at least when constricted to 140 characters.

Such a realization can only be a good thing. Right now, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next step will be. I sincerely hope for a step in an even more equal and thought-provoking direction. I hope my hopes won’t be dashed.

Have a good summer everyone, see you in Twitterverse – or somewhere else!

3 thoughts on “Humanity and social media

  1. Can I play devil's advocate here and suggest that Twitter is far from a level playing field. 1. It's geared towards mass communication on a global level, so works better for lingua franca, or large languages than smaller ones. 2. In Britain at least, the demographic tends towards middle-class, male and over 25. Somebody called it the new chattering class. From anecdotal evidence, I'd tend to agree. 3. How many tweets *really* get picked up by people outside your followers. I'd hazard that it's not many. Having said that, it's a great platform for many different purposes, but I'm still very sceptical. It will never reach the mass of users as Facebook, as the time it takes to understand its power is too long. Twitter needs more investment than any other social medium, but can also deliver more return.

  2. I actually don't see you being the devils advocate with your comments… You are right, of course. A Tweet in English is always going to have a bigger chance of being heard than one in Swedish, Finnish or Welsh. But the same goes for any media – mobile, newspapers, television, podcasts, whatever.With regards to demographics, I can't argue with you there. Twitter, like Facebook or other social media, still requires a minimum of monetary input – a school computer or a fairly cheap phone will do – which opens it up for almost anyone. The possibility is there, should anyone wish to grasp it.And no, tweets getting picked up on, say, a global scale, doesn't happen that often. Again, it is about the content – as with any other media, be it tv series or a news article, a good enough content stands a greater chance of getting through.Now, I will say that I still think Twitter is too limited. It is a first step, but perhaps in a slightly off direction. Not much, just a little. I have some ideas of how the next social media should – or could – look like, but I'll get back to that.

  3. Thanks for a great post and interesting read! Twitter is indeed one of the more democratizing tools in this age of confession we currently live in. Its possibilities for boosting empathy and deepening an understanding of cultures seem promising. But, there’s a great risk for a backlash for this show and tell culture. What happens when and if some users feel they’re promised the moon but are delivered little? I believe the reason people twitter is that they seek to satisfy a need to stand out of the grey mass, being someone distinguishable in the crowd of many. The desire is to be seen, to be noticed, and ultimately, to feel a sense of belonging and to relate to others. But, in this multitude of tweets, everyone simply cannot make their voices heard. There’s got to be twitterers that don’t get followers, that aren’t listened to. Someone’s bound to be disappointed, perhaps even feeling undesirable and neglected. I guess this relates to the discussion of the emergence of an A-list of bloggers, that was a hot topic some 7 years ago. Btw, I’m eagerly looking forward to the post on your ideas on the next social media phenomenon! I believe the next big thing will be on humans as active agents. In the industrial societies, the focus was on objects, products. Now, subjects, individuality and a branded are in the spotlight. Next thing will be – no not verbs (that's twitter taken care of) – but interjections. You know the short exclamations that express emotions and tells you something about the speaker's ideologies, ethics and code, if you will. For example: Oh! I so totally gotta stop writing and get some serious work done now 🙂

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