A Hill Talk Editorial: Social media will fix the world one “friend” at a time

Logging in to Facebook happens regularly for around 213 million Americans, with another 1.2 billion Facebook accounts across the world. Then you add in the multitude of other social media sites, and the number grows to 29 percent of the world using a social media site in 2015. With new markets getting internet access every day, the number is only growing.

A lot of time all you hear about is the negative buzz surrounding social media. Perhaps you yourself have complained about the amount of “drama”on Facebook, or been upset with someone buried in their phone. Another common complaint is the lack of communication skills now that texting has taken over.

SocialNetworking.LoveToKnow.com lists a number of other concerns:

  • Privacy
  • It’s a time waster
  • Anonymity can lead to abuse
  • It destroys grammar.

That being said, I think the benefits of social media far outweigh the bad. I think social media is making us closer than ever, and will eventually bring about a time of peace throughout the world. Despite the anonymity of the username, world cultures, races, and religions are not anonymous anymore. In fact, the differences, and lack thereof, of humanity are front and center.

As your circle of friends and social media contacts continues to grow it is nearly impossible to keep yourself isolated from people with differing beliefs or lifestyles. You are almost certain to have “friends” that you see every day post something about their life, beliefs, dreams, and fears.

Using the recent LGBTQ right to marry fight as an example shows us how social media can grow a circle of influence. When I was growing up I did not know an openly gay person until I was 17. Now, my daily feed contains multiple posts directly, or indirectly related to the LGBTQ community, and this is a common occurrence across platforms.

Social media has shown that the LGBTQ community is no different that the straight community, we all have the same motivations, fears, and desires. The LGBTQ community is now a visible group of society that is no longer only whispered about in bigoted circles like some sort of strange boogeyman.

Social media is also shrinking the world. Take a look at the example of Matt Stopera, a blogger for BuzzFeed, who had his phone stolen. His phone ended up in China, and because of the cloud he was able to use social media to meet the guy that ended up with his phone. They became great friends and visited both countries together, further proving that people the world over can easily connect.

Social media is not without teeth either. There is now a unique form of social justice happening nearly every day where someone is “taken down” by the internet. Look at the now disgraced dentist Walter Palmer who killed a famous Zimbabwean lion in July 2015. Right or wrong, the world community sentenced Palmer, and he currently is no longer able to practice as a dentist, and may eventually be extradited to Zimbabwe.

America and the world have also started to gather around the hashtag as a way to bring a cause to public light. We saw #Ferguson start the conversation about police brutality, #IceBucketChallenge raised a whopping $115 million for ALS, and #BringBackOurGirls introduced the world to Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram and the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian women. Through social media we see once local causes become world causes.

It seems the power of social media also extends to oppressive governments. China is currently jailing citizens for getting together on social media to fight for equal rights and opportunities. Russia recently shut down Wikipedia over banned content. The Arab Spring saw governments from Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Tunisia topple. Citizens are now connected and they are learning that freedom is a basic human right.

Social justice does face one nearly insurmountable obstacle to finally bring all the cultures of the world together, and that is the incredibly short attention span of the internet. Without the ability to focus long-term, things like #Kony2102 are lost in the trending shuffle, warlord Joseph Kony is still at large.

If social media can overcome the short attention span it will be the reckoning force of the world moving us toward a shared culture that values the right of all people.

 

[Sources: Huffington Post, Think Progress, Statista, WeAreSocial, Social Networking: Love to Know, NY Times, BBC News, BuzzFeed, Washington Post]