Thursday, July 18, 2013

Is social media helping to keep the peace?

Before the verdict in the contentious George Zimmerman trial came down, officials were worried about potential backlash from those who disagreed with whatever the verdict would be. They didn't want to see a repeat of the Rodney King verdict riots. They ran a couple of really lame Internet spots urging people to speak out rather than resort to violence and vandalism. Although there were a few exceptions, the reaction was much more civil and restrained than might have been expected. Was that due to these Internet videos? I don't think so. I think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and the like deserve a lot of credit.

Why do people tip over cars, throw bricks through windows and/or set things on fire in protest? They're frustrated that they are unable to reach a significant audience to have their point of view heard. They feel like they are being ignored. It's a pretty sorry way to try to get exposure, but some feel like it's all they can do, so that's what they do.

Now, you have a new alternative. If you have access to the Internet, you can develop a ready audience of hundreds of people in fairly short order. If your point is well made, perhaps they'll even share your opinion with their audience. It's actually possible for an unknown, with no money or political influence, to reach millions, even tens of millions of people, from the comfort of their couch or the local library.  This is a new phenomenon in the history of mankind and I can only conclude that it's going to be a good thing.

Regardless of what you think about the Zimmerman case, people were able to share their thoughts, insights and emotions, not only after the trial, but during it. A national discussion actually took place instead of just a national knee-jerk reaction. In the past, we'd have been fed bits, pieces, highlights of information and then the only public response would have come from politicians, pundits, news anchors and protesters in the streets. This time, everyone who had an opinion or thought they wanted to share was able to do so.

This is no trivial development. Conversation on the Internet, among normal individuals without marketing managers, handlers and experts has already toppled governments and made or broken companies. The ability to manipulate the masses by restricting information flow is rapidly diminishing. This is good news politically, socially and economically. It doesn't mean we're all suddenly going to get on the same page, but it does mean we can all be working with much better quality information. Better input means better output. Viva la Internet!

1 comment:

Elizabeth J. Neal said...

Although there were a few exceptions, the reaction was much more civil and restrained than might have been expected. Was that due to these Internet videos? I don't think so. I think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and the like deserve a lot of credit. instagram followers stats