Has social media changed the way society thinks?
This image, taken from Wilson’s Almanac, is a favourite of The Message’s: a mass of people, connected by proximity, divided by individuality, sharing a single thought and paralysed by it.
In the days before the Internet, before social media, before one-to-many interaction was put at the fingertips of anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account, the image (arguably) accurately summed up the thoughts of the silent majority: ‘I can’t make a difference, so I’m not going to try.’
Now, though, there is a feeling that, with the right content, one person can make a difference – thanks to the reach of social media. It’s a theory the Kony 2012 film put to the test. It’s a theory the spread of anti-government uprisings throughout the Middle East has affirmed. And it’s a theory the makers of a new YouTube video are counting on to help their content go viral and make a difference.
Letter to Asma is a video petition ‘signed by women all over the world’. It is an attempt to get Asma al-Assad, the British-born wife of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to pay less attention to her status as a fashion ‘icon’ and more to the atrocities being committed in Syria as her husband’s forces viciously crack down on opponents.
Letter to Asma was begun by change.org, a social media site that allows people (such as the parents of killed US teenager Trayvon Martin) to create online petitions. A decade or so ago, people had no such recourse and were dependent on the interest – and largesse – of the mainstream media to generate attention.
Whether Letter to Asma and its associated petition makes any difference to the horrific situation in Syria is, of course, doubtful. But it does give a voice to individuals who may not otherwise have been heard and shows them that they can actually do something.
Or does it?
At time of writing, around 80,000 people have seen Letter to Asma and 13,459 have signed the petition – mere drops in the global-population ocean. So is social media simply allowing more people to kid themselves that they can make a difference to the world’s ‘big’ issues or is it really, as we suggested at the start, changing the way society thinks – for the better?
We’d love to hear your thoughts…