The third-place win of the German right wing AfD party in the recent election there left many people stunned. Stories in the media asking who voted for the AfD mirrored those in the US after Donald Trump was elected president. Almost as if something was happening that no one had any idea about. Like a cold shower hit them. In our always-connected lives, it is very interesting that many people are living in such a bubble. As connected as we are, is social media making us simply less social and more introverted in our social networks and beliefs? Are all the tools and access to information making us less prepared and informed?
There are many articles that discuss this – from Scientific American to the Wall Street Journal. It is an ironic reminder that we tend to surround ourselves with tools and gadgets we don’t really need, and use them in a rather clumsy way. Many of us have a kitchen or garage full of devices we never really use, and our smartphones (and we often have more than one) have more computing power than was necessary to (we are told) put a man on the moon. We have the tools, we have the technology, but we are still very primitive in how we use them – if we need (all of) them at all.
I have written before (Digital Culture 101) about how social networks serve in many ways to reinforce our beliefs, and our prejudices – and they should instead open us to new ideas and create a more diverse and peaceful world. There are few of us who follow and like people or accounts that feature images or views or songs which are not those we like or adhere to. Over a very short time, the algorithms learn to only show us what we want to see. Social media quickly becomes a mirror, and as we see, so we believe, and so goes our world.
Perhaps we should use the tools available to face the world around us rather than using them to hide from it. Then, we will not be surprised when say, the Zombie Apocalypse happens – we will be educated, and prepared.
Update: October 2017 ‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia :
… devastating impact upon the political system that some of Rosenstein’s peers believe can be attributed to the rise of social media and the attention-based market that drives it. Drawing a straight line between addiction to social media and political earthquakes like Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, they contend that digital forces have completely upended the political system and, left unchecked, could even render democracy as we know it obsolete.
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