Opening or Closing – is social media shrinking our world view?
For those of you who are studying you will know that Semester 2 is already here (it feels as though we skipped a few months at the beginning of the year). And with this new semester comes our latest intern from QUT’s Creative Industries program, Sharon Barbour.
If like Sharon you’re keen to apply for one of our internship positions, visit our jobs page.
Sharon will be with us for the next 10 weeks so stay tuned for more posts.
Take it away Sharon.
When you think about the digital age you picture sassy, open minded people cruising the information highway, facebooking (yes it is a verb now), snatching news headlines on the run, while commenting about pertinent world issues on Twitter. What we imagine is an opening – a broadening of knowledge as people from all walks of life, cultures and political landscapes connect through social media, swapping ideas and sharing understanding. We picture a consistent learning on a global scale. But are we really becoming more knowledgeable and open-minded? Or is all this social media and personal connectivity in fact creating a narrowing of our knowledge base?
These questions were raised during the recent Ideas Festival, held in Brisbane in May this year, and are certainly worthy of our consideration. We live in a rapidly changing society and it is broadband cable that is connecting us. The faster we connect, the faster we can exchange ideas and the faster we can potentially encourage different behavior and influence the shape of the future planet. All of this seems positive and exciting, but the truth is that the consequences of this brave new world are unknown.
The argument runs like this. Research shows that more people get their information from social media networks than from anywhere else. And let’s face it; we’re all guilty of this. On a busy day, a quick check of the twitter or facebook feed is often enough to keep us relevant and up to date. The problem is that more and more we will have a population that has a tiny bit of knowledge on a whole range of topics. Not only that, but they will have only the perspective that matches like-minded people. Our facebook friends are usually similar to us, and on twitter we share interests. Consequentially we get a narrowing of our understanding of the world, rather than a deepening. We’re getting little sound bites – homogenous views across our shared networks. We end up with a select and often restricted view of the world. If knowledge really is power, then suddenly our increased personal connectivity through social media appears disquieting. Perhaps this will be the real challenge for the digital era – maintaining depth of understanding.
We need to consider the danger of creating a blinkered world view through our use of social media, and make the effort to broaden our scope. It’s fine to get the snap shot, to keep up to date using facebook and twitter, providing our search for knowledge and quest for the truth are not abandoned to convenience and mobility. Rather than absorb a readymade opinion from the news feed, let’s all commit to a little further research on issues that matter. Let’s try for some authenticity in our understanding of the important stuff.