The Dow drops precipitously based on a single Tweet; the Boston bombing perpetrators are identified and caught rapidly in part due to FB and Twitter posts and citizen action; even better yet funds are set up and raised to support victims and their families; a movie is financed outside the Hollywood studio system in record time.
These are only a few recent of a mounting number of examples of the power of these relatively new media channels to move people to action, report events, create movements and set the national and international agenda. In much the same way radio did in the 1920’s and 30’s and TV in the 1940’s and 50’s, so the Internet and online media (social and otherwise) have changed the way we receive, process and share information. This is isn’t news and I’m not the first to cite this but I did see quite a bit of coverage on CNN, CBS, ABC and other networks over the weekend in the wake of the Boston bombings about the power of social media, its speed, reach and “coming of age” and ultimately posing the question: is it time to take “social” out of social media?
Like radio and TV, it has been much maligned and mistrusted and in many cases is biased and inaccurate. It also brings with it myriad social, economic, legal and policy issues that will have to be debated and worked out in the coming decades — giving pundits, lawyers, bloggers, talk shows, think tanks, policymakers and the like a whole new frontier to keep them busy till the next big thing comes along that changes everything yet again.
As the new rules are being contemplated and written, people, businesses and organizations of every kind smart enough to have caught on to this have already gotten policies in place, trained their people and invited them to learn about and participate in this phenomenon. The train left the station a while ago. That said, because it’s the most democratic of media, you can opt in or out or choose to turn it on or off at your control and even filter out a lot of the bad stuff. That’s anyone’s prerogative in a free market society. Yet ignoring it will be hard if for no reason other than tracking the progress of a favorite sports team or a child’s whereabouts and well being. Like TV and radio, it will help us accomplish great things we can be proud of that will bring our world closer together and in the wrong hands it will cause some problems.
Clearly, there will be good and bad stuff to learn along the way, but make no mistake, we will all have to learn how to live with this media because it will be downright anti-social if we don’t!