Social networks: The elephant in the room |
Arab News - 13 July, 2012
Author: Fatin Bundagji
It is a truth as old as history, a fact as consistent as the law of gravity. It is a force of nature with double impact: Positive for those who choose to embrace it and adapt accordingly, and negative for those who choose to apply the ostrich mentality of denial in hope of letting it pass them by. A case in point is the emerging trend of social change resulting from innovative technologies.
In today’s interconnected world, digital social media networks are not only changing the way we communicate information and shape public opinion but they are also changing the way we govern and are governed. At best these networks provide an equal playing ground for unspoken public voices to be heard; at worst they set the stage for chaos and lawlessness. And if governments don’t realize this clear and present takeover and prepare themselves to adapt to it by evaluating the validity of their business-as-usual tactics, then they would be doing a disservice to their responsibilities and consequently impacting our Nation’s stability and advancement.
For the past five years, social media networks are active and are shaping public opinion as you read. Gradually, they are becoming the source of reference to which most traditional media commentators refer to, as we often hear them say, “as mentioned on Twitter”. This fact alone provides these networks with public recognition, validity and prominence, yet strangely enough our Ministry of Information still abides by censorship rules, and treats this emerging phenomenon as the most obvious “elephant in the room”. In fact, our very own minister is an active subscriber using “Twitter” as a platform to pass on his messages.
This state of denial has become so entrenched in our society that it is no longer funny, and we do so at our own risk. But for whatever its worth, recent events such as the Arab Spring have shown that those who embrace it and adapt to its rules, will have the power to control it. And in the case of the Arab Spring, this power has been in the hands of the young and the technically savvy. In short, our “elephant in the room” although obvious yet ignored is powerful and influential, has and will continue to revolutionize how we think and act.
Once again I dare to say that change is a force of nature that has to be dealt with as it happens. We cannot afford to ignore its severity and impact for it has been at the core of our humanity since the start of civilization. Heraclitus, the ancient Greek Philosopher documented this fact in his doctrines some 500 years BC, and in the 1600s Francois de la Rochefoucauld (classical French author) forever engraved the maxim oftenly quoted today: “The only constant in life is change”. Yet, time and again, even as it stares us in the face, we ignore it at our own peril and pretend otherwise.
Books have been written about it, nations have fallen because they ignored it, while others have risen thanks to it. The truth of the matter remains though that it is thanks to “change” that our humanity has advanced and progressed. You see, change forces us to think out of our convenient box of confinement and comfort; change awakens our need for renewal, it colors our existence, influences our character, shapes our destiny and pushes us to challenge our status quo... having said that I ask myself, what happens if we choose to ignore its existence?
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to that, suffice it to say that if we choose to ignore the symptoms of oncoming change then we have to bear whatever consequences are borne out of this denial.