Social media: good, bad, ugly
February 3, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- I know that I'm not the first to write about this, nor the hundredth or even the thousandth. But the reality of the good, bad and ugly of social media has really hit home lately; especially the ugly.
As anyone of us who uses social media knows, it can help us reconnect with lost friends and stay connected with friends and family, even if they are halfway across the world.
As the social media manager for the Fort Jackson Public Affairs Office, I have seen how our Facebook page has allowed families of Soldiers-in-training from all parts of the country to connect with each other to find information, share their pride and seek comfort from the loneliness they feel while their Soldier is away from home.
The other good of social media has been seen recently on the political front. During the 2009 uprising in Iran, after the government shut down most communication efforts, the only way that news could be transmitted to the rest of the world was through Twitter. Recently, we have seen how social media has had an impact by ordinary people in organizing protests against dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt.
Some argue that we are spending more time using social media rather than face-to-face interaction; in turn making us less social.
In her book, "Along Together," Massachusetts Institute of Technology sociology professor Sherry Turkle argues that, "...technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world."
Social media is like anything else, we have to take the bad with the good. What we shouldn't be forced to take is the ugly. Social media has made it easier for anyone with a hate-filled message to get a voice and be heard while retaining somewhat of an anonymity; hiding behind the technology.
This really hit home last week during First Lady Michelle Obama's visit to Fort Jackson. As I was sending out Facebook and Twitter updates during her visit, some of the responses were shocking. There were several comments left on Fort Jackson's Facebook page that were nothing but hateful rants that had no social-redeeming value. They were not arguments that encouraged intelligent discussions, nor were they arguments based in facts. Rather they were bitter remarks based in nothing but political or racial hatred.
While the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech, I don't think our founding fathers meant it to be a license for free-for-all hurtful and spiteful rhetoric.
Open, civil and respectful discussions about disagreements should be encouraged. The ugly that is being proliferated by those who hide behind the anonymity of their computers should not be tolerated, but rather pointed out for the poison it is.