Social Media, is it Optional?

Posted on October 11, 2011 by

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A picture has been circulating around Facebook recently due to the changes currently happening.  Note: It should read “mildly.”

After a quick laugh, I started to think about what the picture was really saying.  On one hand, it is true that I will not be arrested for a “failure to Tweet” and police officers will not come to my house because my Facebook status has not been updated in more than a day.  However, there is much more to social media than having a fast and easy way to catch up with old friends and family members.

Facebook contains several pages and groups for various political views, activism, and religious discussion.  Hardly a day goes by when I do not encounter an online petition for such causes as ending animal abuse, supporting Saudi women in their quest to drive, and easing the burden of student loans for graduating college students.  Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, allows ordinary people to get around government censorship and control to participate in politics.  It also affords some measure of protection against government retaliation.  Unfortunately, this same protection is not guaranteed when a group is outside of the government.  Maria Macias was murdered by a drug cartel for her activity on “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo,” a community website for the residents of a city across the border from Laredo, Texas.  In addition to being a place for people to gather, the website lists information on how to inform the police on drug cartel activity.  It is not without its risks, but it is a way for the people to fight back against the cartel and take their community back.

No, using social media is not explicitly required.  Yet, these are the tools that people are increasingly using to be active members of their local, national, and global communities.  These are the venues that are used to air grievances and to sound calls to action, the ways to shine a light on the world’s dirty secrets.  Can we afford not to use them?

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