There are similarities between where we are now with social media and where the world was during the start of the Industrial Revolution. While most revolutions are started by people who want to challenge the status quo, currently the most influential digital ‘agents of change’ are the status quo, people like Ezra Klein and Arianna Huffington, the same sort of “agents of change” behind the technological progress of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
While the Industrial Revolution brought the world new manufacturing processes, I believe the heart of this revolution is social media. What is profound isn’t FaceBook itself, but the medium. I think most people are unhappy and this is why Western culture is so obsessed with things that deliver transitory moments of pleasure such as sex, drugs and food. Social media won’t replace joy but augment it.
I think about my six-year-old who wasn’t motivated to learn how to read until I showed her how to use WhatsApp with Grandma. I think about why Ezra Klein left the Washington Post to share his high-class “explanatory journalism” with the digital masses. I think about how the Pew Foundation said that fifty percent of Americans get their news via Facebook.
Yet, every revolution has hiccups. Frankly, I’m weary of ‘native advertising‘ which pairs seemingly objective digital journalists with companies footing the bill. It’s really important that these advertising partnerships remain transparent. Personally, I would trust a digital news source more if it promoted its’ internal advertising policies the same way it publicized stories.
Social media can make life better despite sociological statistics about decreased attention span, and alienation. Personally, I don’t use social media instead of seeking out emotional intimacy. I use social media because it is convenient. Just because social media has great potential doesn’t mean we really know how to use it, yet.