The Tensions Surrounding Negative Aspects In The Evolution Of Social Media

We’ve all benefitted in some form or another from the advances in technology made by industries that are all about destruction.  One simple example is the proliferation of navigation systems in our cars and mobile phones – made possible due to the military’s development of the satellites and the underlying technology. But, it can be alarming and scary if we look at how social networking technologies and platforms may be fueling the players of destruction. Such an example of this is going on right now in the tensions surrounding Gaza – with both sides utilizing Twitter for building awareness and fear.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas are both sharing text and imagery via Twitter that range from threats to eliminated targets to missile launches.  I would imagine that these purposes were never thought of as use patterns for Twitter or any other social network when the founding developers were starting out.

Many around the world praised the capabilities of social networks in bringing the Arab Spring to reality – but those sentiments were all about the joy of re/building and connections.  The underlying thread of the Arab Spring was destruction of the status quo and the oppressive powers, so we could look at some of those posts filled with destructive notes and threatening natures as bad.  But, the general take on them was of positivity.

Can we do the same while evaluating the use of social networks by Hamas and the IDF while embroiled in a form of war?  So far, it is all about marketing/publicity/propaganda for each of these sides. In what I’ve read, it is hard to tell whether the posts are meant more as tactical communications of events or inflammatory railings meant to incite more support for either side.  The mere act of threats, taunts and destructive actions from organized military has got to be a major concern for Twitter’s legal team who developed the platform’s Terms & Conditions as a form of protection among individuals. I can’t imagine they ever thought this could have happened, or could they have?

As quickly as Twitter exploded onto the scene, marketers were trying to figure out how they could harness its power.   In parallel, the T&Cs have been steadily augmented ever since their first version upon launch as use has evolved. Without getting into the details of the conflicts in the Middle East, the reality is that the conflict has evolved over the decades (centuries, millennium) so that perception (or marketing) is key.  While bombs can be volleyed from one side to the next, the spin or marketing has become as important – if not more.

This development of marketing in the conflict is the one that is truly concerning. In war, the facts of the battle are often lost in the marketing of it.  We used to only be swayed by the victor after the battle has long been won and the victors have written the “history.”  Now, we have social networks that can shape that same history on a real-time basis.

We have become numbed by the images and tag lines that flicker across our devices 24/7 with there being very little difference between the image of a military commander who has been assassinated and the latest contestant to be voted off of American Idol or Survivor.

When real battles are being fought and lives are at stake, the comparisons to marketing – and its inherent luxuries – should come to an end. Twitter and similar platforms have quite a dilemma to resolve when evaluating whether these types of destructive and incited uses of their product should be allowed.  The answer is not as easy as a “Yes” or “No” because social has become such a large part of society and communications are not so easily removed once they’re out there. And, there is no discounting how much of an impact – positive and negative – social networking has made in our world.

As a community, we were too slow to respond to hatred and bullying by individuals via social networks. Now, we are moving into a much more official use of social networks for inciting fear. Before we know it, the line will be blurred beyond comprehension in relation to how social media changed our world in positive ways versus negative.

As a community, we need to move to make sure that the lines are drawn quite clearly. Perhaps it is a natural advance in evolution, but we should be pushing for positive use… If the difference between positive and negative is even that clear…

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