Social Media is a great tool. It has opened up the world in a way that was never thought imaginable when Tim Berners-Lee published the first web page 20 years ago! Let’s look at the benefits, and never mind the doubters who blame Social Media for current problems.
How easy is it now to connect with friends and family, no matter how far away they are! Did you think that the once imagined gadgets shown in Sci-Fi films would ever become reality? Skype calling and video conferencing have changed the way we can connect, wherever we are. We couldn’t have imagined these devices 20 years ago, so it is just as hard to envisage how the next 20 years will pan out with regard to user generated social networking.
Whilst Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be seen as a new form of ‘gossip mongering’ (no more chatting over the garden fence), and even in poorly conceived cases a form of the old fashioned parlour game Chinese Whispers, it is still one of the greatest phenomena of the 20th century. In this world of modern globalisation any story that is newsworthy can be relayed in real-time to a worldwide audience.
So let’s not blame the Tottenham riots on Social Media anarchists. The riots in London would have occurred with, or without, tweets on Twitter and status updates or direct messages on Facebook. The media always has, and always will, play a specific role in worldwide political and social structures. Propaganda campaigns have been conducted throughout time and whilst Social Media might be the ideal vehicle with which to further fundamentalist ideals and social unrest, Twitter and Facebook do not foster social revolutions in the same way that pamphlets in the French and American revolutions did. Although this form of media can play a significant part, it is not the catalyst, and should not be blamed for inciting a minority to orchestrate violence and looting in recent days. Social Media can break the news, but does not fan the flames!