Sunday, 12 June 2011

Is Social Media Just Another Goldmine?

Amongst all the banal guff you get on Twitter, I decided to pose a philosophical question. Has Social Media done anything to better the world or is it just another goldmine?

To date, I haven't had a single reply. Perish the thought of a retweet. It isn't that surprising really as the lack of answers sort of answers the question.

The fact is that you could present arguments for and against. Only a few days ago I saw great sportsmen like Freddie Flintoff, Michael Vaughan, Graeme McDowell and many more create a trend on Twitter for a young girl with terminal cancer which was part of her 'bucket list'. I see Marieme Jamme developing a narrative for Africa through her activities in Social Media, today her questions were on vaccination programs. I dare say we have plenty of examples of this kind of 'force for good' that some use Social Media for.

Equally, I could just say that most tweets are from attention-seeking wannabes who just like the sound of their own tweets.

Despite the incredible growth in Social Media and the massive usage, we still fight wars, people still starve and there is still incredible social injustice everywhere we look. Although Twitter can claim some small victory in helping debunk the idiot law on Super Injunctions, it has done little else to further social causes beyond the promotion of individual plights, though often for very worthy motives.

In reality, the biggest buzz about the whole phenomenon is about the valuations of each platform. Vast, astronomical amounts of money are being talked of and paid in some instances. It seems the ultimate motives behind Social Media are ones of greed and vast personal wealth.
Perhaps I am being idealistic but when I saw such powerful tools for interaction and networking come into being I did believe that at least one side effect would be that more people could communicate for the good. Perhaps we could find out that we have more in common with Muslims than we don't. Perhaps the same could be said of the Chinese. But when money's at stake, the only reason that we gripe about China's crackdown on Google and Facebook is because we cannot exploit the vast population there for 'monetisation' not because we really care about freedom of thought or speech.

Will Social Media be the biggest opportunity ever missed? Will we only really care about our personal standings in Klout and PeerIndex or measure our personal worth on our numbers of followers? Or will we ever care about changing an unfair world?

In no small way, Simon Cowell was blocked from his tasteless commercial hijacking of Christmas when an Internet wave made 'Rage against the machine' the Christmas No. 1 instead of it being the automatic right of the X Factor winner. That tiny, trivial rebellion illustrated the power we have at our fingertips.

It's just a fact that Tim Berners-Lee and all the originators of the information world we now exploit never made a bean out of it. Their vision was for an opportunity for us all to communicate and share ideas. Somewhere along the way, a bunch of people hijacked the concept and made fortunes.

Don't get me wrong, we all need to earn a living but are we missing the point on Social Networking?

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