Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are the instruments which, in a hyperconnected world, create a reality that is independent of the perceived, managed and projected image most ruling parties across the globe, would want us to have.
Propaganda was given a bad name precisely because it was effective and manipulated people’s thoughts and opinions through the heavily slanted presentation of information. While frequently it appears to be informative and neutral it is cleverly crafted to touch upon commonly held views and resentments and create emotional flashpoints which spiral out of control. The result is always incendiary. It produces a strong reaction, feeds biases and creates a totally one-sided argument while appearing to do the exact opposite.
In 1985 when Ender’s Game was first published the world was a different place. We were each locked into the confines of our own skulls, our thoughts entirely our own, our opinions and ideas shared only with the closest of our friends, our self-expression circumscribed.
Imagine that you can’t connect to Google+, or Facebook, or Twitter for four weeks. How would you feel? For someone who gets jittery when I lose my connection for a couple of hours I have no idea how I would feel. Certainly, if I unplugged for four weeks I imagine I’d feel the way most people would if they took a month off work and then came back in the office: a mixture of stupid and obsolete.
Tragedies have a way of magnifying everything. The very best and the very worst of us has surfaced during times of extreme need and extreme emotion and the Boston bombing was no exception.
We live in the connected age of the knowledge economy. Even street sweepers are brain workers requiring no fewer than 30 hours of training in order to learn how to operate correctly the complex vehicles that clean our city streets.
Social media does not only create the kind of radical transparency that makes seasoned politicians run for cover and bank CEOs wish for the pre-internet days to return, it also brings uncomfortable questions into the light of day.
In 2011 BP became responsible for the biggest oil spill in the history of the planet and in 2012 the Bank of America revamped its fees structure seemingly charging its loyal customers for the pleasure of their association with the institution. Predictably both companies accrued more than their share of critics in the online community. But none of this was enough to help either company win the title of most hated company in America; a singular honor bestowed by Consumerist through a voting system on its site.
“Ask and you shall receive” (Matthew 21:22) may be Biblical but social media is proving that it is far from a dying art form. As a matter of fact so many wishes seem to just come true on the web that you can be forgiven for wondering whether it’s time perhaps to give up that day job and simply get online and beg.