social media: bringing everybody together – for better or worse

The inner groans from social psychologists must have been deafening recently. Politicians calling for a messaging platform ban during unrest – really?
The politicians don't like people talking when it can't be controlled, do they?
A typical reaction, of course. Look for something to blame. A technical scapegoat. But wait, there’s another network that gets people together. Public Transport. Maybe we should we ban that too?

No, of course not. transport is a central part of our social infrastructure, neutral. But no question. Social media was at the heart of the riots. So, is it really evil?

Would our streets have been safer without social media?

The police and media were unanimous – and why shouldn’t we believe them, after all, we don’t have the News of the World to screw up the truth now, do we? Maybe Blackberries are the new hand guns and should be licensed.

Yet the truth is of course, smartphones are just the technology of the moment. Politically neutral, inert. Neither good nor bad, just, well, there.

What our bumbling and sound-byte seeking politicians didn’t realise was that if communication is open and free it can be engaged with.

Drive communication underground – as with terrorists and their satellite phones, the same evil ends are met but we’d never see it coming.

We don’t understand it and we can’t control it – so ban it

How many times have restrictions like this been tried – and failed so miserably? Egypt, Tunisia, even Libya and Syria. All these gun-wielding dictatorships tried. What chance in Europe’s oldest democracy?

Blackberries are just a means – not an end. I doubt they played that pivotal a role. I’m sure they provided more a self-incriminating commentary.

The conventional media feels threatened by social media – particularly Twitter. Social media gives a faster view of the news and there’s no need to fly out news crews first class on expense accounts.

Significantly, media moguls can’t pay thousands of Twitter users off, Fleet St style. So the papers try to discredit it at all costs. The tool of urban terror.

The Police and Government both fear Twitter. After all, the newspapers can be taken to one side and silenced, but you can’t silence an entire population.

The truth will prevail

Bar the odd red herring – something the conventional media knows all too well, truth has a habit of surfacing, when enough people speak it.

As days went on it became clear that social media had a far more positive effect. For intelligence gathering, for community action, public communication and coordinating a far quicker, more efficient and cost effective clean-up.

Social media undid a lot of the damage – forging a new sense of purpose in a broken community and showed us where some unlikely alliances lay.

If you think – and more importantly discuss it, you’ll see social media is a force, for sure, but on balance, its not about the technology or the medium itself.

Its about the users. Its society that ultimately becomes the force for good.

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