It may seem fairly obvious that the Internet is an incredible innovation that has changed the world. What other tool allows you to access every newspaper in print, find a phone number, and share a spreadsheet database with your entire company all in the course of an hour, without leaving your chair?
Like with all great tools, the potentiality for misuse is inherent, and the Internet is no different. Social networking, one of the most revolutionary platforms on the Internet, is the subject of a lot of heated rhetoric regarding privacy, wasted time, and marketing exploitation. Many of these concerns are relevant and valid. But here is a list of reasons why social networking is still a force for good in the world:
It allows friends to stay in touch no matter how much geographic distance or cultural confusion stands in the way. Think of how many people lost friends forever in pre-Internet times simply because of hiccups in continuity or place-based barriers to communication. Social networking is a shared language that bonds friends and unites strangers.
It facilitates the spread of information in a way that subverts censorship and unjust control over expression. Recent revolutions in the Middle East, such as in Iran, Libya, and Egypt, have shown how powerfully social networks such as Twitter and Facebook can transmit valuable, time-sensitive information. Even when traditional media sources like television and radio are shut down, social networks keep communities connected to the world at large.
Social networking democratizes media in a way we’ve never seen before. Social networks allow everyone a voice on important global matters regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or class. Village square meetings held over Twitter illustrate the trend toward social networking as a major force in political debates. More and more, policy-makers check in with the crowd-sourced consensus before making any major a legislative efforts.
Social media has helped small businesses compete with large corporations in the world of commerce. Online retail, SEO, and video marketing give entrepreneurs a fighting chance at establishing a widespread clientele even without the big money that traditionally grants exposure to the top dogs. You don’t need to buy expensive TV ad space. With the Internet, anyone can get their message out and reach consumers in new innovative ways.
The Internet can be used for good or bad. So can social networking. So too can language, thought, and physical movement. But we still consider these things necessary to human civilization. The challenge now is to make sure the Internet remains a neutral place, where democracy can continue to evolve and be inclusive to as many people as possible.