The Power of Social Media… or not…

These past couple of days Malta’s media sources have been unleashed on this grisly crime… a double murder which has shocked the tightly knit Maltese community. However what might be slightly more shocking is the power which is given to the people’s voice. I use the term shocking without implications of strict negativity, but I use it to indicate disruption. A disruptive chaotic medium pervasively rocking society – because people have discovered that their voice has gotten louder (let’s say amplified) in the last decade (actually less!), and that the near-safety which online media has to offer, can empower them with more than the daily afternoon gossip shared amongst kin and neighbors… suddenly sound justice based on reasoned arguments might even take a secondary role (for some) as some kind of different need seems to emerge.

It seems people these days feel the need to voice out their thoughts, without pausing – without reflection. We have seen the power online social media held for the past African revolutions, starting out in Tunisia, moving on to the so-called ‘uprisal’ in Egypt, followed by Libya, Syria, etc. Oh – Twitter and Facebook – the viral effect, as information spreads from one person to many, in proverbial seconds. But one has to ask: How does the information spread? What sort of information does everyone want to spread out?

Do you remember the London Riots?… and the #londonriot chat on Twitter? Some of it was … ‘shocking’… people describing their own irrational actions – with a certain pride… as if daring anyone to take action over Twitter… some did I believe, but the majority got away with it; the beauty and the power of online media is the lack of media control… suddenly the control of the media and the powers-that-be are transferred from George Orwell’s thought-provoking 1984‘s  ‘Big Brother’ … to – well – everyone. Do not misunderstand or misquote me… I do not think that the powers-that-be should control people – their minds and thoughts – it’s not about control, but it’s about responsibility which this great power begs… and yet as society, as individuals within society, one asks, with which kind of responsibility do we handle the power that this social media has so kindly transferred to us…?

And I want to close the loop by once again looking at this horrendous crime which has shaken the Maltese community and the ‘disruption’ this is causing … within the online media, from Facebook to online newspapers – how responsible is everyone being when spreading ‘news’? How justified are all the allegations; all the supposed inferences? Everyone seems to cry – Justice! Truth! but I very much wonder if the power we are assigning ourselves through this wonderful medium is simply to satisfy one of the very seemingly basic human needs … the need for power  – power to affect and the power to control.



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