When social media first became popular with small online communities for people to connect with local friends (now largely replaced by the likes of Facebook, Twitter, etc.,) I’ll be the first to admit I thought it was all an extension of the shallowness of human society obsessed only with what’s popular, what’s sexy, and what their friends are doing. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s the top Ivy League schools, the men involved at the highest sectors of finance or politics, Supreme Court judges, World leaders, or Bieber-obsessed “tweens,” 99% of humanity is pathologically-wired to be more interested in being part of some clique than anything else. (The need for group cohesion is still important, but what some are willing to do to stand with the right people is a topic for another day…) Thus, I’ve never been a huge social media person myself. However, in the last few years, I’ve started to see a turn-around in what social media can mean for our now international community.
Time magazine was on to something when they decided to scrap choosing a single individual as the most influential person of the year a few years back · instead to discuss the Youtube-MySpace-Wikipedia-Facebook-phenomenon · declaring “You” and I as the most influential of all.
I wasn’t so convinced because this was back when Youtube was nothing but obscure television clips and people filming their yard · every MySpace page was either way too glittery or way too punk · Wikipedia was even more questionable than today · and Facebook was all about poking, throwing sheep, and creating group petitions to get the “is” out of status updates.
I didn’t even bother signing up for Twitter when it first came out. I just couldn’t see the point.
Things began changing for me when I became upset about a Multi-Level-Marketing Company called World Financial Group whose sleazy tactics I could not believe were allowed to take place. I created a Facebook group and at least reached some people out their who were clearly at low points in their lives, had been exploited by other marketing ploys pushing make-up or knives, or were just unsure about the situation. It wasn’t a huge success, but it was the first time I saw the value of social media.
I realize now that after the initial wave of superficiality, there is actually a realm for positive social activism and cohesion. Now it’s becoming much easier to call out frauds, to expose the extreme self-censorship of people working for journals and professional publications, to unite people who hitherto thought they were alone in their distaste for capitalism or corporate domination of humanity.
Buddha said that better than a thousand useless words is one word that brings peace. A few sound ideas and sensible outlooks go a long way in changing people’s perspective. If I post a single sound idea on the comments section of a YouTube video watched by hundreds of thousands of people, that idea does eventually spread, especially if it is an honest and consistent perspective. A lot of people have a strong gut feeling about what is right and wrong and only need a few other people to come along, state it in a way that makes sense to them, and show that there are others out there with the same point of view.
I feel that I’ve been able to reach out to at least a few people through WordPress and Twitter and affect their world view – at least in a small way, – but this eventually grows and gains momentum.
I would say the biggest impact has been on Facebook because I’m not writing to strangers, I’m writing to people I know and, thus, things are taken more seriously and the crowd begins to flock and gather in a way that can result in positive social outcomes.
My theory is that back when we were hunter-gatherers, more manipulative, shady, exploitative, and conniving personality types were naturally selected OUT. Once a tight-knit group knows that you lack integrity and word spreads about who you really are, you’re toast. With the beginning of civilization and of the modern urban metropolis, things changed. A lot of behind the scenes shenanigans could go on that couldn’t have ever taken place in a tighter group-setting. With the idea of an increasingly interconnected or “shrinking” world, and the “global village” concept, it’s far easier now for humans to link up to one another, for the truth to spread, and for malicious personality-types to have an increasingly difficult time trying to “hit-and-run” or “loom-in-the-shadows.”
I can instantly message people from India and Romania – impossible even a few decades back. That’s a major global transition. I think we just never made much of it because it felt like nothing was changing. A few years after the commencement of the US invasion of Iraq, my grandfather (96 at the time and originally from Vietnam) was looking at a newspaper showing US soldiers destroying the country of Iraq and saying to himself “world hasn’t changed a bit.” Thus, it didn’t feel like all the social media was having much impact. Things are only now starting to reverse themselves and the long-term effects of greater global communication and education are finally beginning to be realized (and on a authentic level, not the purely ostentatious level of liberal-frauds like Samantha Power.)
Let’s just hope that people can continue to see social media as a catalyst for positive social change rather than something that legitimizes the archaic systems and ego-obsessed cultural values they were born from.