Today: Mar 01, 2024

Herland: Social media mobilizes social connectivity

A woman joyfully holds up a Twitter protest sign during the Egyptian uprising.

Cassandra Cammarata, Staff Writer:
March 22. Late into the night and early into the morning, I sat in my kitchen checking into my virtual identity through news pages and regularly visited social media sites. Soon, my Twitter feed began to explode.
Many of the middle eastern news avatars binged onto my computer screen tweets and retweets, exasperated and almost primal scrawlings of a Syrian crisis that was just unfolding some almost 5,500 miles away. #Syria soon became a trending topic; I clicked almost as if I was in a tense heat, wanting, needing, desiring some sort of finite information.
30, 60, 120 new tweets began pouring over each second I tried to refresh the page in an awkward fury. Tweets resembled cries such as “10 gunned down in the street. MASSACRE HAPPENING RIGHT NOW IN SYRIA!!!!” and “all electricity off, MASSACRE IN SYRIA.” Panic went through me. I clicked on one link. A video of someone speaking
in Arabic, an extreme unintelligible cacophony permeated the video. The video had been uploaded nine seconds ago. I realized in this the gravity of social, international connectivity, but is this to our advantage or is the highly empathic unfiltered nature of such actually detrimental to our ability to not only conceive but to exist in our own position in
society?

A protest sign exemplifies social media during the Syrian “Lotus” revolution.

The panic that had been manifesting in this constant revolution of the most actual real-time information that I had ever received only was further heightened by the inability to get legitimate news coverage to back up the statements. Being
additively consumptive of news and believing in this structure in society as a check and balance to the world’s affairs, I was awestruck and perhaps fearsome that there was no tangible “news” reporting, nothing going through the journalistic tenets of objectivity, no reporter in the midst of the crisis able to report back to the world. It was just people, actual people emotionally and physically present to the crises, reacting viscerally and pro-actively,
giving information of their issues, their crises desiring the catalyst that is social media to give them a voice,
a validation, a ground for nonoppressive expression. There is an immediacy but also an emotionality
that is unmatched in the structure of news coverage.
Does emotion have a place in the receiving of the news? The presentation of news has been, in history, like a pendulum, swinging effortlessly and without bumps, from one extreme to another. Sensationalism has long been out, with hardnosed, strident, almost heroic objectivity being in its favor. But perhaps this new conduit for “news,” social
media, or an extreme outlet of connection, is ushering in the new placement of the pendulum to once
again include the emotion, the empathy, the cored feelings that each possess into the account; receiving and commanding, of the news that is disseminated. Many brushed off Twitter’s ability to be a solid form of communication from the start, believing it’s structure to be impossible to be sustained and desired; like the almost complete abandon
and subsequent migration of the internet populace onto Facebook. But Twitter has a different format, and somehow seems more a place for information, as it is almost all words with little else to do but give space to your thoughts.
But many governments fear this heightened connectivity, for it harbors the social fringe; those of people and their ideas. Both Julian Assange and even more currently, Ai Wei Wei arrested in China under ambiguous terms but most likely for dissent, are incredible pioneers of this new platform for global knowledge.
Wei Wei is a Twitter champion, using the medium as a free form environment to voice to the world his own oppression. The use of a non-suppressive recorder to inform of one’s own oppressive state is a strong Molotov cocktail in the
face of tyrannical governments, to which they are trying to reign in. The uprisings in the middle east have highlighted the extreme ability to quickly, effectively and without censor give information to the world. But there is still an issue with not only the truth of such statements without an objective filter, but also becoming to porous to this knowledge. When you are able to receive all that there is to receive, where is yourself within this? What do you do with total information? Does it provide a platform for social change or of empathy to the world in which we live in? Or does it just drown us with extreme emotion to which weighs heavily onto our own moral conscious? Is that because we have become desensitized or unable to place accurately our emotions within the context of news? Ignorance, or disconnection with social media, may be bliss. But it is impossible to reject such, as we are in the society of technology, and there seems to be a void in emotional response of the horrors that still permeate our world, even those that may be next door and not uncomprehendingly far removed from our day to day.
Technology is intertwined with our everyday, to which we must understand how to work with it, not let it work us. Twitter remains, and may be an origin of our now evolving relationship with news, connectivity and our place in the micro among the macro.

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