Earlier today, Bernie Freytag, our creative director asked me if I had watched the President’s speech regarding Afghanistan last night. He noted that none of his friends on Facebook nor followers on Twitter had made any comments on it. I had to admit, though I too had watched it, I hadn’t seen a single word from my friends or followers as well. A few posts by a couple news sources but none of the actual humans I keep in my circle had uttered a word pro or against.
Since both Bernie and I were surprised that there was so little internet chatter about it, I immediately thought again to the liberal nature of Social Media. I assumed then that the President’s speech put liberal minded folks in a hard spot. That the usual banter that would follow a speech about an escalation of war had been stifled, not unlike how the Democrats in Congress have been forced to bite their tongues. On the one hand, many of them are anti-war. But they are also pro-Obama. So like me and many of my social network, we’re stuck. We want to support and believe in our President, but aren’t really sure sending more troops into that war zone is the answer. So we’re silent, or at least that’s what I thought.
The flaw in my assumption is that just because we’re not hearing it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. A few quick twitter searches and I found plenty of agreement, anger, outrage etc. regarding last night’s speech. Of course there was. But despite this being obvious to me now, the fact that my narrow focus of Social Media wasn’t talking about it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. So then I looked up Rush Limbaugh @limbaugh which didn’t help. He’s got 50,000 followers and 0 tweets. Next up, @foxnews but still, very little debate at all. So where is all of this debate coming from? Well, to my delight it’s coming from regular people.
This made me think about the nature of Social Media and how your self-made group of influencers might taint your view of what the world is actually talking about. There’s a phenomenon that takes place when you get your news from Social Media and use it to attempt to gauge what people are talking about. The whole basis of SM is that we are all social creatures. We naturally are attracted to people like us, and people that like us. Hence we join groups. It’s always been this way from the beginning of man, we now just have the technology to find people like us hundreds of thousands of miles away, and interact with them in real time.
So the lesson learned here is that though Social Media is a great way to view the world, be careful that your view isn’t distorted by the company you keep. To paraphrase the Godfather, “Don’t just keep your friends close, also keep your enemies closer.” Make room in your social network for unlike-minded people. In fact, embrace the people that disagree with you — that make you think. That way liberals like me won’t have to follow @foxnews to keep my outlook “Fair and Balanced.”