Social networks are empowering. They have their share of flaws and there are many demerits that have emerged over the years, more so recently as the world gets more familiar with the pros and cons of such public virtual platforms. To answer the question, social networks can help with social problems. Can they help with all social problems? The answer is no. However, a majority of what ails our society can be addressed and even resolved using the might of social networks.
One of the first gifts of social networks was thought of as the free platform where people could connect with others, and in some cases, people like to keep track of who they are connecting with on social networks using tools like an Instagram followers tracker. This is empowering, especially for the voiceless, the powerless and the helpless. From that perspective, social networks have already helped with one social problem, that of empowering the unheard. But if you truly think of the various social problems that warrant the attention of everyone, then the biggest revelation of social networks has been the sheer hatred that spills out in the open. The world has always had its share of hatred. However, civilized societies have tried to stand up for the good and have reformed to defeat the bad. Unfortunately, despite innumerable revolutions and transformations over the centuries, there are hard rooted prejudices, sheer dogmas and unfounded angst that still exist and are widely prevalent. Social networks have allowed people to express this and one can only address social problems if they become evident. Cocooning oneself, living in echo chambers and shutting the eyes don’t wish away the real social problems.
Social networks are amplifiers. They amplify the bad and the good. Just as there is rampant trolling, there is also the congregation of people with good intentions. There would be polarization, as has always been the case in our world. However, such polarization is at least visible and the actions as well as reactions are observed, archived and addressed. Most social problems have had the distinctly potent ability to survive, despite the progress made in every sphere. Social networks have brought back the focus on prevailing problems. Many had believed and wrongly so that a majority of social evils had been resolved, completely shelved with the history books. Now that everyone gets to realize it is not so, there can be action.
Social networks have an unprecedented and unmatched ability to bring people together. The real time engagement, the congregation of influencers including politicians, celebrities, high net worth individuals, activists, lawyers and all change makers, the concerted effort that can be triggered and facilitated along with the follow-up can truly usher in the changes that one wants to see and realize. One of the indirect benefits of the various revelations of the persistently prevailing social problems has been the fact that many people have been shaken awake from their slumber. Most people are now realizing and acknowledging that not all is well with our society. Only when such a realization happens can one expect an appropriate response. Social networks may have many pitfalls but they surely are a medium to bring in real change.
Author James Barstone