Social Media: A Weapon of Mass Disruption?

There is a massive shift happening in our world. A transition of sorts, from becoming complacent with the state of things – or, in some cases, too afraid to voice our frustrations at the way things are run – to finally fighting back. This is the decade of the protester. Of the liberal mind. Of the thinker and the blogger, the creator of media that strives to kindle the fires of instigative thought. Of the shaper of a social landscape where the voice of the people can truly be heard.

And, I don’t know about you, but frankly, it can be quite a frightening world to live in. The social media frenzy can drive masses into delusion at the expense of false belief. It happens on an on-going basis throughout the Internet: an abuse of the true power inherent in this medium of communication.

Disruptive thought is a potent mechanism. It’s the machine that initiated the now ubiquitous Arab Spring revolts that are transforming Middle Eastern nations on a scale of unprecedented proportions. But disruptive thought isn’t something totally new to the human experience. It’s been around for some time: it was that notion of the Cosmos – of a grander vision of life – brought about by Ancient Greek astronomers as they gazed upon the heavens and wondered why. It was those fiery words written by the Bard on pieces of parchment, transformed into engrossing drama, and inspiring independent thought amongst the crowds at the Globe. It was provocative ideas by eighteenth century scientists that challenged preconceived beliefs. These thoughts shook the very fabric of the human intellect, yet it is in this age that we see this disruption happening at an accelerated rate. We see this happening through the notion of the “collective mindset” – the power of thousands of intellects connecting together through the platforms provided by social media to generate a single, sonorous voice.

That voice can be both powerful and drowning. The chatter generated by social platforms like Twitter – whilst powerful in initiating revolutions – can spur frenzy. Think of it as “digital mob mentality”: thousands of people expressing their frustrations under a #hashtag, influencing thousands more in the way they perceive the situation. This is the scary part: this kind of influence-disruption can turn us into mental clones of an ideology.

Social media is more than a tool to connect friends across long distances. That much is apparent. We know that it can be used to plot revolutions, “leak” scintillating political secrets, and keep nations informed of global crises. But when you give a toxic chemical to one crazy person, it won’t be long before said crazy individual conceives a method to replicate that intoxication, producing, en masse, global delusion. And when that happens, my friends, the world becomes a lot more formidable.

Thus comes the need for the Discerning Internet Citizen: an individual that is able to block out the chatter – often mindless, mind-numbing drivel – and filter data received from each social platform almost instinctively. Scientia est potentia as the Latin saying goes: knowledge is power. But the way you use the knowledge you acquire is far more important than simply holding it in cache. Via mediums such as Twitter, we receive data constantly. It’s very easy to start, over time, becoming conditioned by the thoughts of others; our absorbent minds are vulnerable to involuntarily adopting others’ ideologies. In other words, it’s easy to have our own thinking processes disrupted by the intrusion of social media. A discerning mindset is perhaps our last and final defence in an age that is edging rapidly into the cyberverse, living our entire lives in the Cloud.

The thoughts of an individual have the potential for mass disruption. It’s your choice – be influenced, or influence discerning change.

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