We live in tumultuous times to say the least, what with everything our world experienced in 2020 and with its after-(and ongoing) effects into this new year.
Lately I’ve come to be more aware of the magnifying glass (or glasses) through which we all view and absorb these social and global events. More often than not, they enable further turmoil within us and across our relationships in general.
This magnifying glass I speak of? Social media.
In fact, media in general – across its multiple, fragmented and often deceptive platforms. It seems strange coming from a Media graduate and one who has worked in the industry over the last 15 or so years, but I do believe that the media is one of the greatest dangers in our modern era, when corrupted and used for selfish gain.
In our consumption of news through this ultimate magnifier, even the smallest of issues seem all-encompassing and catastrophic, depending on what type of lens is used and who controls it. And often what we see has been so carefully crafted that by the time we look through the glass, we’re seeing exactly what we were made to see.
Amidst the flurry of such information, stories and content, we are left without much room for independent thought and reflection, rather reacting to what we’ve read, watched or listened to in very visceral and emotional ways. We are human and we feel so deeply. But we must be wary of those who use this reality for self-serving means.
I write today hot on the heels of social talk regarding media censorship. Big tech companies, namely Facebook and Twitter, have made bold moves to protect their integrity and ensure that their company policies are not violated. Google, Apple and Amazon have followed suit placing bans and restrictions on what they believe to be threatening forces to society, culture and the global economy as whole.
On the surface, such decisions appear justified and comprehensible, but once again, looking at these issues through the heavily moderated magnifying glass may be over-simplifying the real problem and masking long-term concerns hidden beneath the surface.
What does it mean for us as social media consumers if tech companies decide which voices are allowed on their platforms?
What does this mean for us as social media creators?
Indeed, rules and regulations must be put in place if we are to operate civilly online, but the censoring of certain thoughts and opinions over others, could greatly compromise the diversity of voices we have been privileged to experience through the growth of social media.
It has been interesting to watch a wave of influencers lose their right to share their opinions, with their content being restricted or their accounts blocked all together. I know people in my own circles that have been reported and cancelled online, not because of bullying behaviour or hateful comments, but simply for disagreeing or offering a different perspective on an issue.
I’m usually one to avoid confrontation and steer clear of vitriol, but being so connected to the world through this magnifying glass makes it increasingly difficult to not be part of. Media and the Internet at large is a powerful force in our culture and we all need to use it some way or another. It connects us, keeps us informed and enables us to communicate our own ideas.
I just wonder, how can we as creative, hopeful, free-thinking individuals move forward in this noisy world of information that we cannot fully trust and rely on?
The simple answer: we don’t rely on it.
From time to time, we must look beyond the magnifying glass. We must become more resourceful in the way we consume and verify information, as well as in the ways we create and share our own content.
Not one social media or mainstream platform should monopolise our thinking – we must learn to become proactive collectors and strategic curators of ideas and opinions, as a means to formulate our own perspectives on what’s happening in the world.
Because the world exists without the magnifying glass showing us so. It is merely a lens to see the world, and rarely, truly as it is.
The evolution of social media since its emergence, has been full of both opportunity and controversy. Imagine a time it may cease to exist. How would you fare without it?