simon-zhu-man-standing-young-guy-staring-watching-social-media-better-future-2019-article-opinion-piece

So it’s 2019 and you don’t know where things are headed… If I’m totally honest I’m not sure anyone really knows what’s ahead. We can do fancy projections and we can make guesses, hell, we can even ask economists and psychics what to expect. Regardless of what we are told, we are responsible for the outcome of the year ahead of us.

The choices we make as a community will ultimately decide what kind of year we experience. This is where things get a little tricky, how do we as a community mold the kind of year we want if our community is at odds with itself? I can’t claim to have all the solutions to this problem but I can say this. Social media is going to be key for me and maybe for you as well.

Social media adoption over time

Source: Percentage of U.S. population with a social media profile from 2008 to 2018
Source: Statista – Percentage of U.S. population with a social media profile from 2008 to 2018

Looking above, at the rise in social media use over the last ten years in the US alone, (barring a 3% drop in 2018 which I believe is largely due to media fatigue, which I will discuss in a bit) you can see that social media is becoming more and more popular as an avenue of connection for people. According to Pew Research Center, about one in five people get the majority of their news from social media, even if they might expect it to be inaccurate.

Not a replacement but an augmentation

This is no surprise when you consider the number of news outlets now using social media as a platform from which to disseminate their information. It is my opinion that this is not as terrible a concept as many people seem to think it is. Technophobics aside, I believe the average person enjoys having information at their fingertips at a whim.

As long as you have a computer, smartphone or tablet with access to the Internet you have at least some access to new and current events, while this access is certainly not equally attainable for all people in every country even the most restrictive nations with Internet have some form of social media that has news available for the consumer, even if it might only be a national platform. This fact alone shows us the power social media has; however, social media has a much greater and far more important role in today’s world. It connects us. Social media has bridged gaps once nearly impossible for the average person.

Also interesting: Offline Social Media: Is That Even Possible?

When I was a kid, if I wanted to call Germany or Japan I had to ask my parents (who’d say “no”) if we could afford the long distance charges associated with an international phone call. Now back then I had no reason to do anything of the sort aside from maybe talking to my uncle in Korea. Today things are different, we are an interconnected society, you no longer need status or money to have connections across the oceans.

All you need now is something like Skype or Snapchat, and you can make a free voice or video call to just about anyone you want so long as they share that particular tool and have Internet access. Beyond that, we have things like Twitter and Facebook, where people from all walks of life can connect and respond to one another. We now have the ability to talk with celebrities on a one to one basis without ever leaving our homes. Not all would answer you but they could. Some do.

Lingua franca and the power of machine translation

We can see information and input from political representatives and share our opinions with them in real or near to real time. We have come so far as to be able to play games with people living in other countries speaking languages we don’t even understand due to built-in translation programs and contextual images. The world is a lot smaller and much more global than it used to be. This comes with some pitfalls to be sure.

One of those pitfalls is (social) media fatigue, a scenario wherein the user is so overwhelmed by one or more aspects of social media that they recoil or suffer anxiety due to overexposure or even cases of FOMO. This can be a serious problem and most of us have experienced it as some time in our lives. Whether you are a kid hanging out talking to a massive group of friends on discord or an adult taking in the social climate and trying to keep up with business trends, we all run the risk of media fatigue.

Pinning-Needles-Pins-On-Map-Worldmap-Earth-Destinations-Targets-International-Social-Media

That being said, with a healthy knowledge of when to step back or take a break, and the right mindset, social media can be the most powerful and amazing tool at our disposal in this age of glass and circuits. We have an immense amount of power at our fingertips right now, we have the power to make things trend. 

This may sound a little silly at first but really think about what that means. Trending topics are the first thing most people will see when looking at most forms of social media and they are largely driven by the voice of the people. Yes, there are complicated algorithms involved in determining what will trend but when it comes down to it, you and I are the deciding factors.

While there has been a great deal of debate over whether or not there is a political bias to trending topics for an entirely separate discussion that I won’t get into here. What I am trying to impress upon you is this: We, as a global interconnected community, have the power to make our voices heard in a way we never have before. We can manipulate the information space around us to express topics important to us, we can use this ability to intact change, uplift those in need and reach out to those people who run our governments, businesses, and institutions of learning.

The loudest voice

Let’s discuss for a moment one of the most powerful actions to emerge from the social media boom. The Internet boycott. Never before in history have we had just far-reaching power to collectively choose to use our voice to force change. We have the power to now internationally boycott something we disagree with. This alone is an amazing feat we can put to use in the year ahead.  We can make our voices heard more easily now than ever before. Another wonderful, powerful opportunity has arisen as well.

We can fact-check something pretty much as soon as it is said and call people out on their BS. This is the counterbalance to the campaign of misinformation some entities are using as a tool against the people. Our ability to fact check and call a someone out directly for everyone to see keeps people on their toes. We (most of us) know that we have to work harder to keep our facts straight lest someone call us out in front of all creation. It’s a scary thing to think about if you make you’re living off slinging lies and shoddy promises that you know you cannot keep.

Woman-Voice-People-Amplification-Yelling-Social-Media-Be-Heard-Talking-Event

Another wonder of the current social media era is outreach and support. Never before have we been so easily able to hold our hands out and say “I need help”, and never before have people been so readily able to respond with support and aid. Now I know that there are a lot of dark and jagged corners to the net as a whole and that absolutist extends to social media, trolls wander the proverbial halls of Twitter waiting to prey on someone they consider an easy mark.

It is true that social media has created a space for toxic elements to gather into whatever particular cesspool they desire but we have power over this as well. We now have the power to share the names of abusers and would be villains with others and save them suffering the same malignant and banal abuse we endured. We can now stand together, work together, share our experiences, and prevail as one. I am not condoning doxing someone for calling you a fatty, however, the ability to provide businesses with information about a dangerous element under their roof has in more than one case gone as far as saving a life.

Showing you what is important to me

We can now share our stories, good and bad, with those around us, profoundly opening up our capacity to empathize with one another. Wonderful and powerful movements have been started on social media that have changed the lives of so many for the better, just knowing you are not alone is empowering in and of itself. Oneness can be found where people may have before felt isolated and unheard. I truly believe this is one of the most important things we can do in 2019, be as one, work together with those around us to see the progress we so deeply desire come to light.

Also interesting: Digitalization and the Critique of Critics

Thinking about business and finding the right job for your career: Opportunity as a whole is greatly expanded with today’s social media, consider LinkedIn. Some 500 million people use LinkedIn to correspond for the prepossess of networking and finding work in their field. It’s kind of like having the largest job fair you have ever seen, open 24/7, for almost everyone around the world.

I want to talk for a moment about the purely “social” aspect of social media. There is no human being on this earth that can thrive in isolation, as our view shifts away from tribalism and into a global mindset we still require personal social interaction, be it the conversation, conflict, romance or recreation – we need others. Most of us are made to be social. When you have a majority of the world as your sandbox it can be hard to find other kids to play with, enter virtual bonding. Virtual bonding via social media has allowed many people to see out companions of various natures when previously this would have been difficult to nearly impossible. It’s not a must and not a replacement but it’s an amazing addition to your pool of options.

When virtual becomes real and the other way around

My next few statements come with a serious caveat: Virtual bonding can allow for much more than virtual relationships. We now have dating apps, meet-ups, social groups and events all coordinated via social media. The ability to meet up with someone you may have never run into in your daily life allows us to seek out like-minded people for things like D&D groups, conventions or just a little Netflix and chill (hey I  don’t judge –  just be safe.)

The key factor here is the ability to vet and get a feel for the person/people you are meeting beforehand, which for people like me with social anxiety is an absolute lifesaver.  We truly do have control over 2019 and how it all turns out, at least more than any one person may think. Our actions and desires as a collective are now a part of an ongoing, living, and, the evolving zeitgeist that will be the measure by which we mark each passing year. We live in an age of action and now more than ever we as a whole can direct those actions.

Smiling-Girl-Woman-Using-Smartphone-Apps-Social-Media-Street-Sitting-City-Urban-Outside

We have the ability to write our own history from here on out as long as we have the will and fire to do so. If those with good in their hearts and hunger for progress can come together as one we have a shot at making 2019 a landmark for intellectual and benevolent change. We have only to dream so loudly the evils of this world can no longer cover their ears and shout.

It’s positive if you want it to be, negative if you want it to be

Last year was rough for some. We all know it, but we don’t have to go into the near year feeling defeated and like our voices don’t matter we have so many wonderful tools at our disposal, we need only apply them for good and fight to prevent those who would use them for evil from gaining a hold.

Everything can seem so far away when the year is new and goals can seem so far away, but if we keep together and working hard we can achieve wondrous and amazing things. We can uplift those in need and give voices to the silenced. So many people are touting the negative aspects of social media, I won’t deny they exist, but if we can only shift our focus to those places the naysayers and toxic elements of the world try so desperately to keep us from seeing, we will see the light of hope on the horizon of a new year.

I believe we are on the cusp of a new era whether is it one of enlightenment and growth or one of the Luddites and anti-progressives who desire nothing more than to take us back to the dark ages maintains to be seen. If we work hard and stand strong, using the tools modern technology and communications have given us we have a very good chance of tilting the scales in the direction of hope, equality, and progress. I do not fear the future; I am the future, so too are all the good people out there in the world fighting to make things a little better, a little brighter safer for us all.

“Never stop fighting for the things in life that really matter. if you ever get tired, you can lean on me.”DRB

Daniel BennettThis guest article has been provided by Daniel Bennett as a column for TechAcute. This article reflects the author’s views and is built on his opinion and experiences. It is not necessarily the view of the editorial office. Make sure you also check into his work at The Douchebag of Holding on Patreon. Thank you for sharing this with us, Daniel!

Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Simon Zhu. The photo “make your mark on the map” has been done by Kelsey Knight. The photo “fashion’s untold stories” has been done by Clem Onojeghuo. The photo “smiling woman with smartphone” has been done by Priscilla Du Preez.
Source: StatistaTom Webster (Edison Research) / Elisa Shearer (Pew Research) / Eric Ravenscraft (Lifehacker)