Social Media & Social Amnesia

The irony of social media is that it prohibits rather than exhibits proactive democracy. Tweets get shared, posts get linked, blogs get read, instagrams get hearted, and in the end no revolutionary fires kindle.

With so much shared activity, political discourse, and media coverage, why hasn’t social media enhanced the democratic experience? Why are we so apathetic today? Perhaps the social media mechanism, instead of becoming a beacon of democratic journalism and activisim, is actually there to sustain the powers at be, the men behind the wheel, the rich atop their mountains. Can social media be used for social change? The answer, if we are to believe in what hitherto has come to pass must be an astounding no!

Social unrest may be at a high, but we do not go bang on the door of our representatives, instead our young men decide to bang their guns in the our streets, in our schools, and in our theaters. We enjoy watching revolutionary anarchic films like V for Vendetta, Batman Begins, and The Hunger Games precisely because the fantasy of revolution is deep in our souls, but we are too weak to give it a chorus loud enough which would start the marching. Social media can create flash mobs, but it cannot create mobs. America now more than ever, needs mobs.

The internet once championed as the essence of the democratic spirit may now be the power suppressing that spirit. It is the entertainment tool used by those who hold all the power to distract those who do not.

The political process recognizes itself now as a joke, and the political debates of both parties demonstrate one thing, the power of entertainment. The power of entertainment is not to deliver a message over the air waves that shakes homes and changes lives. Entertainment doesn’t even edify. The power of entertainment is amnesia. It requires forgetfulness, and makes us full in a way that every good laugh does. However entertaining, it is not sustaining for an american demoracy.

In some respects the anti-political correctness campaigns of both Donald Trump & Bernie Sanders have something in common, they are trying to get back to good old honest plain speaking. The irony is that their honesty is also a form of entertainment. Their honesty sounds like a joke, one which only some of us get. Whether one is politically correct or not, the question remains whether social media prohibits rather than intensifies political efficacy and awareness. We have more sound bites, but we as a group are too entertained to hear.

The solution, unlike some other luddites who suggest and lament for older times, is technology itself. The only question is how ought we use it in a way that increases political activity rather than diminish it. Can social media create a new space for social activism, my sincere hope is yes, but my heart says no.