It is amazing to follow social media and to see the storms of civil commotion and agitation from all walks of life on various issues getting people into a fever of excitement. Be it a question of racism like Mr Hards or Mrs Penny’s tweets in South Africa about entitlement and filth at the beach, be it a question of sexism like the word ” pantyprenuers” at an ANC anniversary meeting – or be it the discussions about the events in Cologne in Germany where more than 100 women laid charge against men looking like those “from North Africa” because of theft, rape and other criminal or unlawful behavior. My observations are not dealing with the matters as such but with the reactions on social media – it’s rather a search for the reasons of feeling often uncomfortable with what is posted or put out on social media. And these thoughts are indeed just thoughts, not conclusions or determinations.
It seems that everybody has an opinion and hammers the internet with this opinion, people getting into fights with each others, being disciplined, suspended, kicked out, threatened with physical attacks and other promises of revenge. Racism and sexism seems to be like a cudgel to accuse the other side not being in tune with the own opinion. Social media suddenly turns into a madhouse of accusations, threats, counter accusations and most people have obviously not only an opinion but also a remedy to avoid repeat of the perceived or real misconduct or criminal act; they know exactly how to battle racism, sexism, crime, discrimination and all the rest of it.
Seeing this in the framework of a world in various difficulties and seemingly overwhelming situations like the refugee crisis in Europe, the wars in the Near East, the battle of minds and ideologies in various African countries I can’t help the question to ask how this all ties together – what is it that make people so furious, so angry, so sure that they are right and most others wrong, so willing to defend positions, analysis, thoughts, impressions as the only valid and right ones.
My guess is it is often their own insecurity and anger and let me explain this:
It seems to me that the world is changing dramatically with all the access to information 24/7, all the constant input from politics, religion and society from the other end of the world as it would happen around the corner. Cellphones and tablets are peeping all the time announcing new messages and news. It seems to me like an information overflow – we cannot handle as human beings the constant influx and to counter it, we retreat to safe ground, either defending our own little world at any cost or running with the majority of opinions to not to lose out or been seen on the wrong side of society – in both cases up to the extreme. And if one gets “flack” – opinions suddenly are perceived as treats, as attacks and dealt with accordingly. The war of words begins…
Reading the sometimes tough and verbally violent opinions and demands on social media, the judgements without often knowing the facts and – or – just going with the flow I read in it the anger of a world getting more and more complex, offering too many options and possibilities, a freedom of choices while on the other hand governed by more and more automated systems in administration and society leaving less and less room for humanity and provisions for the individual case. Never ending information floods from everywhere in a seemingly smaller and more regulated world makes social media the perfect outlet for all the anger and frustration. The constant flow of information seems to force us to immediate reaction and comments – reading headlines on Facebook allow already for the like button and 140 letters of Twitter are enough to describe a complex situation.
Social media can be a wonderful tool to connect and to find related minds, it is indeed a great tool for social movements but as with all things it can also be used to marginalize and outcast, to create sentiments hurting people and societies but it never replaces real dialogue and the need for personal encounters. We have to acknowledge the limitations of communicating on social media – and we have to develop a tolerance and understanding that a person is more than the brief twitter or the status report – and that posting a link might be meant to stimulate discussion rather than portraying it as the own opinion. And we all know that sometimes our mouth is faster than our brain – and we have to realize that social media might be less forgiving than a spoken word retracted immediately.
So what I wish for is:
* read first and then share or post; don’t trust the headline
* think first and let anger vanish before posting
* give other posts the benefit of the doubt if possible
* raise your voice against xenophobia, sexism, racism, but in a dignified way and report it to the relevant authorities
* no tit for tats – it pollutes the social media