Is Social Media only Social Mania?

I have been watching events unfold in North Africa and across the Middle East and I am wondering if this is a well orchestrated attempt to drive up the price of oil, or a cheaper alternative to “Shock and Awe” that got bogged down in “It’s Draining Our Money Away.” The formula is simple: pick a repressive regime and flood it with social media and “…let slip the dogs of war.” Or are these events really occurring through the impetus of people•power fuelled by truly democratic and impartial social media?

One thing is obvious: nothing can be kept hidden in this world anymore, not even those now•proven•as•non•existent weapons of mass•destruction, unless you own the media that enables the information flow. And even then, there are organizations like Wiki Leaks and Anonymous who create checks and balances in cyberspace. Sidebar: don’t parade nude in front of your laptop anymore, guys, just in case your embedded camera has been secretly invaded by a spybot and you are instantly unloaded to You Tube and made a hero (or a zero, depending on your physical endowments) in minutes, for Big Brother is indeed watching.

But let’s get back to these revolutions taking place in countries ruled by despot dictators. It’s great that people are starting to express themselves (and how!) and that the smell of democracy is in the air. But like that “zero to hero” business, how can a people who have lived for generations in the dark suddenly emerge into the light and govern themselves under the benevolent but eccentric rules of democracy? Will they get it right straight out of the gate? Wasn’t it Churchill who said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”? Well, people emerging into the light after years of oppression and terrible loss are not going to settle for second best, even if it really is the best, according to Sir Winston. Would they end up to wandering in the desert for forty years before they find themselves, or find democracy like the Russians are still trying to discover, or would they fall into the arms of another repressive regime, one they can instantly identify with after having lived under several in the past, and being blinded and frightened by this newly discovered light of freedom, embrace the known devil in desperation, thus beginning the vicious cycle all over again?

Social media is great for unleashing mass hysteria and hype, we know that, but can it take the next step and create sustained and progressive dialogue that leads to understanding, knowledge and agreement as to how people should govern themselves under the rules of democracy? Does the very viral nature of social media inhibit it from the rule•defined approach, aka Robert’s Rules of Order, needed for good government? The events unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa will certainly be a key learning for us in terms of how far social media can go, not only in dislodging despots but in leading people towards progressive and sustained self•government.

And while we are it, can you guys who control the oil industry out there, please put the price down a bit? There is absolutely no reason for you to jack up prices, just because a small country like Libya is cleaning up house. You know what happens to despots who amass private fortunes – you could next be in the sights of that maniacal leveller called social media!

2 thoughts on “Is Social Media only Social Mania?”

  1. Hi Shane,

    This is a great and thought provoking post. If only I was younger I would certainly get another masters degree studying Social Media. My observation is Social Media is not the message it’s the conversation. Governments, businesses and organizations can spend time and money crafting their message but once Social Media kicks in they can’t control the conversation. It’s going to be an interesting world going forward and I for one am pretty excited to see where things are going.

  2. Hi Marcie,

    Yes – the conversation is now in public, not in private anymore. And that is seeming to create tsunamis of change.

    I am still trying to understand if people can actually make money via social media – other than by popping interesting content (either created or copied) onto their sites and then drawing advertizers. Can one actually sell mortgages (or books, in my case) via social media? Or is it just a channel for becoming famous but remaining poor? There are hundreds of “How to be a Millionnaire on Twitter” formulas floating out there – how many actually work? Or do they only make money for the peddlar of the formula? Anyway – if you find some magic answers, let me know.

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