Thursday, August 23, 2012

Online Activism or Antagonism

What is it that drives us to share infographs, links, memes or quotes of the political or religious nature? Is it because we are trying to incite a thoughtful and critical discussion of our values and motivations as a society? Or do we just want to let it be known that we see things a certain way - a virtual shouting from the mountaintop? Or do we care at all about what impact it might have on the random invisible people on the other end of the web; those subjected to our onslaught of propaganda? What do we hope to accomplish by our incessant sharing? I'm as guilty as anyone. I can't stop myself from clicking the share button on a picture that strikes me, but do I actually believe that someone will rethink their position because of it, or is it more likely that they will get pissed and share their own infographic rebuttal? Are we online activists or antagonists?

I truly believe that the increased connectivity ushered in by the digital age has allowed us to hold people to an entirely new level of accountability for what they say and believe. Look at what happens now when a public figure says something stupid. They are lambasted by the entire nation online and through television instantaneously. In many ways it is a beautiful thing. Something that has the potential of bringing us ever closer to the mirror smoke of truth. But am I overly optimistic to think that this new level of exposure and accountability will force people to come to grips and confront the hypocrisies of their personal world-views? Or, will the elimination of time that used to serve as a filter and distiller between commentary and the citizenry cause people to double down on their beliefs separating us even further? We can find whatever information we desire, and that is exactly what we do. We search out the ideas that reaffirm our own. We reject the validity of facts that contradict what we already believe to be true. Will we ever learn the skill of diplomacy and critical thinking, humility in our own intellect, acknowledgment that we might not know everything even though google is at our fingertips? Will we ever be able to come together and discuss difficult issues with sound reasoning, level heads and open minds? I'm not so sure...

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