Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
John Lennon, 1971
The other day I watched Barkha Dutt’s,“We the Tweeple” on NDTV. While the debate centered on the significant spread of positivity and assertiveness that twitter in particular and social media in general have created amongst common folk, one could still sense disquiet amongst a section of the participants. I was left wondering whether there remained concerns unsaid and unanswered.
It is often remarked that the anarchism the internet and its various appendages have come to signify, holds out the promise of societal empowerment for the first time in the history of mankind. The eighteenth century English philosopher William Godwin believed that the ‘Euthanasia of authority” would need to be achieved through individual reformation. As the tweeple inheriting today’s world, have we taken the onus of reforming ourselves and creating an existence on our own terms, bereft of any Governmental and organisational controls?
So can the social media revolution be viewed as a way forward? A concern that is often voiced is that it is fragmenting society and breaking down societal bonds. But as I ponder, I realise that such shifts in society and its perspectives have occurred many times in the past. Be it the massive changes in the socio-economic structure, culture and customs wrought when we moved from a predominantly agrarian to an industrialised society. Or the relatively lesser breakdown of our sense of neighbourhood and community which the Television brought about. So why this rising shrillness and uncertainty about the negative impact of Twitter, Facebook, SMSs etc?
As I ponder some more, I become aware of a more fundamental shift. A shift that is taking human society away from ethnic, religious and community groupings to connectivities at the individual level. We, the technologically empowered tweeple, are no longer willing to accept family and community pressures to “belong” to specified groups. We would rather prefer to tap into diverse networks that meet our emotional or social needs.
Which brings us to the disturbing aspect of this electronic invasion of social media into our lives viz. the blurring between our inner private space and our outside social footprint. This has major implications on our “thinking out of the box” creativity, our behaviour and even our inner values. As we continue to lose more and more of our inner selves, would we not be losing out on our individualism, our inner peace- which is the reason why we were attracted to be a tweeple and its empowerment in the first place? Therein lies the dilemma and its irony.
So what happens as we move forward a few decades or centuries down the curve?
Would we become a wired node to an omniscient society with the capacity to access information at will, anywhere, any time? In return our innermost thoughts and beliefs on display for all to see and examine? Would those frightening visions of The Matrix, of Morpheus welcoming Neo “to the real world” where all people are wired to a central intelligence, come true in this fashion?
Or would social media become the enabler for our heightened individualism as we use its networked capability to achieve John Lennon’s utopia of “joining in and making the world as one?
- Living Networked in a Wired World- by Barry Wellman & Keith Hampton.
7 thoughts on “A World of Tweeple”
Hi Shakti – I am very impressed by the thought and erudition displayed by all the participants!
As I see it, each generation evolves differently from the previous one, essentially because the environment in which they grow up has changed. Consequently the generation gap is widening, leading to a growing disconnect with family background, lore, and even a sense of ‘sanskar’. As elder son points out- ‘Dad, forget the generation between you & me,there is a generation gap between me and Gaurav(my younger son, who is 5 years younger)’.
My own evolution relating to spirituality, music, a set of values & ethics, my lineage,intellectual development,etc. was deeply influenced and moulded by my Baba and Nana – not through lectures, but simply through the experience of living together in a relatively slow, relaxed manner that promoted casual but enjoyable and fulfilling interaction.In contrast, I seriously doubt that I will have anywhere near as much influence on my grandson’s development. Apart from the physical distancing of successive generations, is the fact that the pace of life is truly frenetic, with most needs being fulfilled instantly. As a result, the peer group in this age dominates over family – at least so it appears to an old fogey like me.
In consequence, the ugly,the loud, the ‘sexy’ is now seen as beautiful/desirable – be it music, art, personal behaviour,dress, or social mores. Once youthful hormones are raging(as all of us can vividly recall), where is the time for pensive thought, or for quiet bonding with the earlier generations? When bombarded with internet porn, one wonders how childhood innocence can survive, especially when 3-4 year olds are technically very savvy and using computers intensively.
And that brings us to the disproportionate impact of twitter, Facebook,etc.on kids. Discourse on them often trivialises many issues and thoughts. That said, I am sure that a deep-seated cleansing is due, and will happen – even without the advent of the next Avatar! How & when this will happen, I cannot say, but human history is replete with instances of societies renewing themselves at the moral and spiritual level.
Delighted to acknowledge your considered and very relevant views.
What I hear you say are two aspects of change as we perceive it.
1) Our process of socialisation and there form inculcation of beliefs, values and energy sources stemmed from our immediate circle of family and close friends. Whereas today, a considerable influence is through the wider circles fostered by the anarchic internet of which social media form key components. While earlier we had the time and a face attached to our influencers, today it has become much more frenetic and faceless. Aspects of “loud” social mores, need for instant gratification, blurring of what is “right” and what is not, are symptoms of this change. The key take-away from all this is, as I have mentioned in the blog, the shift away from religious, ethnic and family groupings as the contact influencing point to connecting directly to the individual as part of ” social” communities to which he belongs.
To me the implications of this are a huge shift, away from how the human society has behaved and acted since the dawn of its existence. But I also say this from a space of positivity regarding the enormous empowerment, involvement and human energy this has the potential to unleash.
2) When you mention about the deep seated cleansing that has become due, you say this from your system of values. While I would not in any way want to dispute this belief (trust me, I also come from the same space!), I would like to raise the criteria for judgement one level higher to aspects of morality and ethics. I believe we need to judge changed behaviour and actions against this and not really our values which were formed and were relevant during an environment which has vastly changed.
I would continue to seek and look forward to your opinions and views in the future also.
Thanking you and with kind regards
Hi Esgee, we are witnessing a gigantic shift in how we connect and communicate, and our economies, governments and businesses are all experiencing mass disruption. Its not given us to foretell how our words will echo, but my feeling is that most of these changes will result in better tomorrows. History is replete with warnings about new technologies, and I am sure there would have been warnings at one time on how something like a telephone would rob society of its sense of community.
The new social media building blocks have empowered individuals to speak up and organize and effect change on their terms. But at the end of the day, I think its just mere technology…with no potential to lead us to either Utopia or hell. Utopias have to first form within and only then they would manifest in the real world…and for this no technology can help…:-)
I am delighted to see your comments. Your reasoning is immaculate. I particularly like when you say that ” Utopias have to start from within” for it manifest externally.
I also acknowledge your argument about societal misgivings about new technologies in the past. I have in fact referred to this through my observation on the misgivings about the television during last century. Every development and initiative has two sides and it all comes down to the human intellect and enterprise to optimise the good aspects.
Hi Essgee, nice questions but you might want to stick your neck out and take one side of the fence – either way we wont be around to be proved right or wrong that far down the road !
The fear of authority figures, such as Governments, about the social networking world is clearly one of loss of control – on thoughts and ergo, on actions. Many a recent revolution has been fanned spectacularly on social networks – Egypt, Syria, Libya and even other less bloody ones like the Pink Chaddi or Slut Walk campaigns.
My major fear about this phenomenon, while having been part of the technology building in this space, is that real human interactions will be a casualty and the ‘socialisation’ that we had growing up may be history.
Delighted to see your comments.. Well since you asked and replying from a space of positivity, I believe Mankind would once again be able to draw from its ingenuity and initiative base to become more empowered. That has been the case in every technological scallop we have seen in history. And you have also mentioned the positive impacts in the recent revolutions….