We are in a new age of technology and social media, rampant with warnings about the potential dangers to privacy and personal relationships from such developments. Over time, however, we must not become so entrenched in these criticisms that we lose sight of the benefits that have resulted from technological innovation.
The events of the past few weeks have only accentuated criticisms of technology’s increased influence. Americans have a right to be worried about the revelations of government surveillance by Edward Snowden, who leaked information about a National Security Administration (NSA) Program called PRISM. With PRISM, the NSA has been intercepting data about millions of phone calls and e-mails across the country. The details of the program are certainly alarming.
Nonetheless, my colleague Edward Peichel at The College Conservative makes a strong point. We have enthralled ourselves so deeply with sharing our lives on social media that a cry for privacy seems hypocritical.
With proper balance, however, social media can help society reach greater heights than ever before.
Twitter is a strong example of the transformation of social media. More than Facebook, users are encouraged to tweet short updates throughout the day. The 140-character limit streamlines reading so users can quickly distinguish “trends” on their Twitter timeline. This style is particularly useful for breaking news. Because there are no editors, Twitter can promote new information more quickly than the Associated Press can write articles. Pictures can be shared with users in one click, allowing shocking moments to go viral within minutes.
Twitter has allowed constituents to keep their elected officials more accountable. It has also been incorporated into many television shows and political campaigns, allowing users to easily make contact with reporters or candidates to ask questions or leave comments.
As the famous Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire warned, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Users now have an enormous influence on information sharing, and factual accuracy can suffer if we are not careful. Used properly, Twitter and other social media outlets have brought us into a new era of interconnectedness.
The founder of C-SPAN, Brian Lamb, had a vision when he began broadcasting from Congress in 1979. Today, C-SPAN has over 200,000 hours of video footage available to the public. “Political power has been dispersed,” he says. “It’s all about technology. The American people are incredibly creative.”
The Economist also recognizes that, despite the harmful effects, technology can lead to a “world rich in new opportunities.” Technology has led to better communication, breaking down barriers between countries and cultures. It has allowed new business ideas to take off, streamlining the daily shopping and banking activities of millions of people.
Though our first reaction may be to shy away from technology, avoiding its use as much as possible, we should not go so far as to forget its monumental benefits. Social media outlets such as Twitter may seem useless or even harmful on the surface, but their contributions to society far outweigh their costs.