If you are like me, then you have noticed an increasing amount social media forums in the past decade. It seems as if in the time it takes to check all of the apps on your smartphone or computer there is new information to be seen on the first medium you checked, creating a never ending flow of information. This never ending flow is describe in the introduction of the 5th chapter Stephen Coleman and Karen Ross write:
“We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of bring coerced into silence or conformity”.
On Facebook and Twitter people can post their opinions for all the world to read with relatively little fear of backlash outside of dissenting opinions posted in response, which do not come without voices in agreement reaffirming their beliefs. Now there are blogs like the recently popular Yik-Yak and Whisper where people can post anonymously with no fear of their identity being revealed, leading to bolder and more insensitive posts. Access to these forums is free to anyone with a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and it is what Coleman and Ross refer to as e-empowerment. It is the power a single person enjoys from new technological advances in social media.
As a consequence of e-empowerment, a change in the way groups of people, like political elites and public masses, communicate with each other has occured. In earlier years there was a vertical, or top-down, flow of interactivity. Currently there is a horizontal flow of interactivity where peers can interact with peers, free from regional boundaries. I believe this transformation is similar to that of one from a civilized setting where people ask questions that are answered by those qualified to answer, to a group of people informally yelling over one another trying to have their opinion be the loudest one heard. Is this necessarily a good thing? Is a free-for-all of ranting and raving the best way to hear opinions?
Regardless of your opinion on if this is a good thing or a bad thing, it most likely seems like as general truth. How could it not, especially as college students? Students who predominately have smartphones, laptops, and Internet access in virtually every building we enter. It is so pervasive in our everyday life it is hard to even see just how much we use the Internet and social media on a daily basis. However, this is not the case argue Coleman and Ross. There are divides that separate those who can voice their opinions on a potentially global stage and those who cannot, like literacy and technological skills. We take for granted our access to the Internet and social media arenas we just assume everyone enjoys this privilege. Sites like Facebook and Twitter boast themselves as a worldwide, unrivaled good available to anyone. What about people who cannot afford devices to access them on? Too often we disregard this group of people all together without even a thought. Especially as Americans, living in a country where the lower class has some access to technology, we are used to everyone enjoying these luxuries, and forget about other countries where Internet access is even less available in higher classes.
Another divide I see is between those who care and those who care and those who do not; those who are active posters and passive readers. Most of our friends on Facebook and Twitter followers do not actively post their opinions. However, we can all pinpoint two or three people in our lives who cannot seem to help themselves from posting their opinions. This creates an even further divide in the social media sphere, and it means there is an even smaller portion of the world public whose voices are posted for the world to see. Most people, who care enough to post their opinions, hold more extreme views, left or right, than those who refrain from sharing their views. It is not very often a person posts about an agreement with both political parties, and praising government for working together to solve an issue.
The rise of technology and social media forums used to lead me to believe that we are truly connected with all parts of the world. After reading what Stephen Coleman and Karen Ross have to say, I am not so inclined to think this is a necessarily good thing. The relative anonymity these posters enjoy allows them to forgo consequences they would have had to endure in earlier and less technologically advanced times. And is the world any more connected with itself than it was before, or are the people who have the time and ability to make their voices heard simply the same ones who have before?