Opening Panel: Social media and democracy

Social media. Everyone uses them, but for sure most of us can see both - its pros and cons. The subject of the social impact of social media is very ambiguous, it brings up a lot of emotions, and that is why our panelists found it interesting to talk about.

We’ve all heard about the riots in the UK, and how people involved in them used social networks to deceive British police. You can hardly say that it made a good promotion for the social media tools. On the other hand hardly anyone has taken notice of the fact that after the riots many people used Twitter and Facebook to get together and clean up the destroyed streets. This case, and also the use that young Arabs made of Facebook in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt shows us the good side of the phenomenon of the social networks. So what are they like in the end? Do they support democracy by bringing the people together, or rather should we be aware of them as really dangerous tools?

During the NECE’s opening panel Mr. Barber investigated a very interesting side of this question. He said that one thing that all the social media have in common is that they allow us to live in so called “comfort zones”. It is true that via various social media we can meet different people but usually they are very similar to us. That's how work both Facebook (“Look, these are people that can be your friends”) and Amazon (“Here you have some books that you’re going to like”). Because of that feature of social networks we can live our lives surrounded by people who think exactly like us. But we have to realize that democracy is all about talking and making compromises with representatives of groups that are completely different from us. Thus we can deal with urgent problems (and on Facebook you cannot “Dislike” things…) and try to look for a solution. Social media hardly can give us such an opportunity. It is not that difficult to use Facebook to organize a strike against some injustice, but it might be very difficult to get in contact with the opposite side of the conflict and try to solve it together. It might be very important to start looking at the social media from this point. So maybe we can ask Mark Zuckerberg to add that “Dislike” button… For the democracy’s sake.

Web 2.0
Conference Day: