The Responsibility of Social Networking

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I barely remember a time when the internet wasn’t the go-to source for information.  When I was a kid I did school reports based on research from encyclopedias and library books.  This concept is laughable today because the printed word means almost nothing – what was fact when those books were printed may not be fact today.  Now, sites like Wikipedia thrive on diligent edits in order to maintain credibility and truth.   They are mutable, and change according to what we as a people come to know.  Today I don’t have to look farther than my iPhone for answers (Wikipedia and imdb.com have seen much traffic from my device).  Whatever facts we seek the internet is where we go.

But, within this vast pool of facts and knowledge is a tighter web of information exchange called Social Networking.  This is not only a matrix of information, but information pertinent to the moment – or at least pertinent to current popularity.  We decide what information is passed on.  It is a luxury as well as a responsibility.

The problem is we share so freely that everything becomes muddled.  What is important?  What is merely for fun?  Sometimes I love seeing what beer a friend drank early in the afternoon – especially if it is new.  Sometimes I love seeing pictures of my friend’s children, or whatever National Park they visited over the weekend.  It is nice to see friends smiling.  It is nice to see family.  More often than not, however, it is only nice for sentimental reasons.  Don’t get me wrong – I am sentimental.  But, I don’t think my closest friends care to know what color my mother’s new car is, or if I’m feeling guilty about the cheeseburger I had for lunch.  It’s fun, but who the hell cares?

The reason I’ve written this is because earlier today a ten-year-old girl went missing in Westminster, CO.  This is the kind of story the power of social networking should be used for.  Get it out there.  Let it be known.  We are so willing to post about the insignificant and abstract ideas that come through our hands – sequences of text that if we “like” or “share” supposedly proves our stance on a subject; or our support of mothers, sisters, or whomever; or our devotion to some sort of arbitrary Hallmark nonsense – that we don’t stop to see what is an actual story, the sharing of which could change a person’s life.

We have become desensitized to the information that flows through us.  It is all base-level.  A missing child seems no different to us than a distant cousin having lobster for dinner.  Our responsibility gets lost in the flow of information, because it comes so fast.  Our reaction is too often to simply comment, or “like” a Facebook post – because there are so many of them – when it should be our duty to spread the words that deserve to be spread.

I admit, it is much easier to share the things that make us smile than it is to share the things that make us responsible.  That is the rub of social networking: by suddenly being serious in a matrix of light-hearted, pictures-of-dogs-wearing-capes, environment…  we stand to stand out by cutting through the fun.  But, sometimes that is what has to happen.  It’s a responsibility to the world we live in, because it is the world we chose to create through our adoption of said means.  Not everything can be a lolcat.

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