How Impactful Is the Click of a Button?

Does social media have the ability to change the world? The simple answer is yes. To quote one of my favorite video games, “[Change] denotes neither bad nor good, but it certainly means not the same” (Alice: Madness Returns). Online dating has made it easier to find your soul mate, or get catfished. Platforms like Tumblr and YouTube can be a source of pride and confidence for users, but they can just as easily be used by trolls and bullies to tear people apart. Social media has become a major source of addiction, but it’s arguably not as damaging as drugs.

Obviously social media will alter the way people socialize, but how does that affect the world at large? What does social media do for the environment? Just like social interaction, social media changes our approach towards the environment, but not necessarily for better or for worse.

Yesterday in class, my professor asked us if we had any fun plans for the weekend, and one of the guys said he would be going to Washington for the climate change march. My professor asked how he heard about it, and he said, “It was on Facebook somewhere. Like, ‘This is when and where. Show up if you want.’”

Well, that’s efficient. Communicating through social media is actually perfect for environmental causes. It’s paperless and can reach a wide audience. This will hopefully encourage a larger crowd to assemble at Washington D.C. than if a few pamphlets were stabled on telephone poles. However, if only locals showed up to the march, then less gasoline would be used to get to the march. Yes, a larger number will get their point across more effectively, but there is a cost.

There is also a chance that the use of social media will actually make the message less effective. In order to get people to join a cause, they need to care about it. Social media has caused people to feel less empathy towards others. If someone doesn’t care about their supposed friends, why would they care about the people in Oklahoma who are experiencing earthquakes due to fracking? They might share a link with a #tragedy, but only to get a few likes and shares out of it.

Social media is clearly changing the social and literal landscape, for better or for worse. In my opinion, it’s only really changing the tools we use, not the people who it reaches. If you care about the environment, it’s not necessarily because you saw a Tweet about rhinos going extinct. It’s because you’re a caring person. The Tweet itself didn’t make you care, it only made you aware. A pamphlet on a telephone pole about how local birds were being affected by pollution would have made you care about the environment just as effectively. All social media really does is reach a wider audience. It doesn’t make anyone better or worse. It just isn’t the same.

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