Just last night, I was going to do a post on the missing journalist. Then I woke up this morning to discover she was not found but freed. Either way, I am happy my colleague
who doesn’t even know my name YET, is alive!
Dorothy went missing on her arrival in Syria last month. According to news bulletins, the 39 year old disappeared in Damascus on April 29 (the date of her last tweet too, I noticed). She was detained while on assignment, covering the protest against the incumbent government (AFP Wire)
Social media networks sprung into action, Free Dorothy Parvaz accounts/campaigns were set up on Twitter. FaceBook, never to be left out, churned a “”Free Dorothy, please urge Iran to release her immediately” page – it instantly had over 16,000 fans.
I do rejoice that “she has been released, and is safe and in good health”- but this is an opportunity for me to ask a question that has been bugging my head – is social media always the answer whenever there is a crisis?
Ever since the JASMINE REVOLUTIONS (this is how I refer to the Tunisia and Egypt stories), optimism towards what social media can do for democracy and freedom has skyrocketed to an all time high.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong proponent of new media for democracy and all that voice-of-the-voiceless movement. However, at the same time, caution should be exercised so we do not digress so far away from what exactly it is we need to do to bring about the desired change in our societies.
My argument is that, whatever is done on social media, should be backed up by other non-media dependent actions. Social media should be a means to an end, and not the end itself. Too much power should not be ascribed to social media as the new digital Messiah. The consequences of consolidating such a mindset are damning. in fact, that will be an entire new blog post on its own.
I will introduce you to two concepts: Technological Determinism & Social Determinism — they are opposites of one another.
A Technological Determinist sees technology as the most important influence on the society. They point to technology as the almighty force that shapes the society. Social Determinism on the other hand, reversely believes it is the human race that shapes technology. For a Social Determinist, social factors control technology.
This debate is still raging, and it is a dicey one. My point here however is, you should recognise which class you fall into and identify why you may be right or wrong. For me, I am in-between. I would argue that the flow from Social to Media (technology) could go both ways – but it would be to humans’ advantage if we decided to maintain control in our minds (perception wise) of how far techonology can navigate the social change that we desire, be it freedom campaigns or dethronement of an incumbent president.
So when next you are signing that online petition – don’t think it ends there – think of what more you can do beyond social media, to foster your desired development.
P.S. that was a kind of tough-write on some levels 😀