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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Can Facebook Save the World?

The recent Middle East developments have forced me to ponder the pros and cons of social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the like get a lot of guff from cerebrals who claim that these venues are cheapening communication, and I can’t say I argue with them. Add to that obvious privacy issues and a consumerist culture that was out of control before people were updating their status every few hours with the beer they’re drinking or the clothes they’re coveting this season and we're that much closer to trouble. I know a part of me worries for Atticus, who will grow up lacking the knowledge of what the world was like without his picture posted across the internet (without his explicit permission, no less). As a teacher, I directly see the ill effects of acronyms and a custom of communication that celebrates brevity to a fault; an essay that uses “because” instead of “cuz” is likely to bring me to tears.

That said, I can’t help but notice the incredible progress that has come about as a result of social media. Regardless of the times I criticize “kids these days,” I still have a thankfully large number of students who seek knowledge and are able to find it far more easily than I ever was. Their taste in music alone is worthy of celebration, and surely the result of internet influence. Most importantly, however, the recent successful democratic demonstrations taking place in countries that have never seen such freedom owe their success almost entirely to social networking. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are difficult to regulate, even for the most tyrannical governments, which made these demonstrations possible for the first time. In the end, I have to ask myself if I’m willing to make a few sacrifices for the sake of someone else’s chance to participate in the democratic process…even a million misspelled posts about Justin Beiber’s stance on abortion (OMG, WTF?!!) is worth one social revolution. So where do you stand?


  1. Great question. I believe that it's a microcosm of technological advancement in general; if used properly, it can affect much needed change on a massive level. On the other hand, it can also amplify the underlying issues of a diseased culture, rendering the symptoms metastatic. Given my perception of the trajectory of humanity, I feel like it's just another notable landmark on the horizon. Sure, it has the potential to influence our ultimate destination, but it seems more probable that it will simply remain the focal point of a civilization that is spotting as it pirouettes down the commode.

  2. I hope you're wrong, Matt, but I can't help but assume you're not here. It really all depends on how the media is used and whether or not we, as a culture, will reinforce the need for intelligent and worthwhile communication. Thanks for your insight!