Humans are social by nature; they like to live in large close knit groups and interact on a regular basis. Neanderthals, scientists claim, were unable to talk like we do but modern humans overcame that little problems thanks to evolution. Chattering away not always being enough, the written language and written communication followed; universal education became the measure of success and literacy rates soared. Now, humans have a new form of communication that has taken its place alongside the older forms: social media.
In the beginning, there was a certain amount of reaction, which was only natural. Face to face communication, it was claimed, would suffer: people would not be able to socialize; they would become alienated from each other; it was the thin end of the wedge and disaster was sure to follow. Society as we knew it would collapse and we, humans, would become replicas of the zombies from “The Return of the Walking Dead”. None of these fears have materialized needless to say, and social media has become the new form of communication. If you imagine that social media is the realm of youth who are disengaged from society, you need to think again.
Even social media virgins are scrambling to open Twitter accounts now that Donald Trump has become the president of the most powerful democracy in the world. Trump habitually informs the nation and the rest of the world of his reactions to events, his proposed policies and their justifications as well as his personal opinions via Twitter, in real time. The world media, Chinese leaders and even the North Koreans and Iranians are now following him on Twitter. Trump isn’t the only politician with a social media account. Politicians worldwide have discovered this wonderful way of communicating with the electorate. It is hardly possible to speak to everyone in the country and sometimes the world directly. It is possible to write but then the said politician would have to sit and pray that those pesky voters actually take the trouble to read what is written. However, one tweet or post on Facebook, and the politician has everyone’s attention within seconds. Recent political campaigns are proof of the grip social media has on politicians.
Big business, which has many of the same concerns and aspirations as politicians, were not to be left behind. They have latched on to social media for dear life. Every businessman worth his salt, every single company big or small, every department, every educational institution and all major celebs are all on social media. The British accountants’ society for example will invite you to follow them on Facebook or Twitter. The pull of being able actually address the whole world, be listened to and reacted to by people on the other side of the globe, the opportunity to reach out to party supporters, potential customers, clients or fans so quickly and efficiently is an opportunity which is hard to resist. Social media is a new way of checking the public pulse, manipulating the market, gaining loyal followers and advertising which now discovered, will never disappear. Social media is here to stay as it is the answer to the prayers of everyone in the public sphere.
Private individuals, the average Joe, have social circles too; they need to exchange opinions with people around them, cooperate for one reason or another and confide in others. Social media gives individuals the chance to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world at any time. Social media is just a new and novel way of communicating; nothing more. It has its downsides but so does regular conversation. One must remember that quarrels, arguments, belittlement, verbal abuse, intimidation and threats are also forms of communication. It would be nonsensical to decide to stop talking to people and live like a hermit just because this is so. Social media is a natural outcome of globalization and used responsibly, has the potential to widen one’s world and bring people closer together.
To sum up, a backlash against new unfamiliar practices should not be surprising but social media has proved its worth and is here to stay for better or for worse. If people don’t wish to be left behind, they need to set up their accounts and jump into the conversation. As Bob Dylan so aptly put it those that get hurt will be those who have stalled; people shouldn’t “block up the hallways”; they should allow innovations to take place.