Social Media, Social Justice — Social Ignorance???

Last Sunday I taught 2 classes at my church about “Social justice”  (the idea of creating a society based on justice and equality).

I thought it might be fun for these high-school kids to tie it in with Social media, so I planned to talk about the Arab spring and the role Facebook played, and Occupy wall street.


The first class has 27 kids. Almost all of them had facebook accounts. But. Not ONE of them had heard of the Arab spring or the role that Facebook played.

I was a bit startled.  And it got me thinking. These were 14 year olds.  So they use Facebook. But with just their friends. They do not watch the evening news with their parents. I admit- My husband and I rarely watch “the evening news” – I get my news on the radio during my commute (and, I admit, a bit from my twitter stream… I heard about the Japan Earthquake from Twitter before the major networks were reporting it.) My own kids might be pretty ignorant of current events and I am not realizing that – because I get my dose away from them,  while I’m in the car.

This is making me wonder – is use of personalized social media potentially making people more isolated or “ignorant”? If you can get ONLY the customized news that you are interested in, or only the things your friends are interested in – will you miss important social, political (or technical?) news and information?   Today’s technology allows me to get “just the content I want”… but… Perhaps  we as members of society also should recieve “the content that we need… to be good global citizens.”

  1. #1 by Rob Hollier on December 20, 2011 - 22:29

    Hi Mary Beth,

    You mention that we can get only the news that we are interested in, and that we may miss important news/information. But what is important to each person is often something that they’re interested in.

    Let’s say I’m not too bothered about what happens in the New Zealand Government election (just as an example). Many people may think that’s a hugely important things for our country, yet if I’m uninterested in it then should I bother hearing about it if I don’t have to?

    We had our lowest voter turn out in 80 years or so, with only 68% of people voting in the elections. I think this was mainly due to the lack of interest of politics in our society. This could definitely be seen as a bad bunch of global citizens… But is it better for uninterested people to not be involved, or for uninterested people to make a throw-away vote they don’t care about??

    Lots of people in the world are blissfully ignorant of certain types of news, and social media allows them to stay that way. It’s up to each individual (or their parents) as to what they follow in life.. Just like choosing subjects in schools, these days the choice to drop Maths or English etc can be done quite early, and who is it to say History is more important than Geography or vice versa haha??

    Just my random thoughts!

    Rob 🙂

  2. #2 by Thomas Duff on December 20, 2011 - 23:31

    I think you raise a very good point, one that I heard mentioned a couple times in the past. Let’s say I’m a right-wing member of the Tea Party (I’m not, but work with me here…) I’ll likely listen to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and I’ll view my perception of the world through those perspective and biases. If I choose only to listen to news and people who confirm my views, then I lose my ability to think through issues from both sides. I become dogmatic in my beliefs, buying into any statements about the other side that reinforces my stereotypes. I’m right, you’re wrong, and the only way we can fix things is if you agree with me. The exact same things apply if I’m getting personalized news that interests me as a far-left Socialist.

    The problem is that we’re not being shown other facets, other arguments on an issue that cause us to actually *think* and create a space that allows for disagreements, yet still work together to solve the underlying problem. It’s far easier to vilify the other side to the point that you either have to “win” the argument/issue/election, or you can absolve yourself of all responsibility going forward because no one cared to listen to what *would* work.

    As Rob mentioned above, there are areas of the news that we just don’t care about and that don’t make it into my circle of concern. As an American, I don’t spend many sleepless nights wondering about New Zealand’s economy. But if I lived in a country close to New Zealand, one in which trade with New Zealand was an important part of our economy, then I better well be paying attention.

    We really need to use these social tools no just to band with other tribes that look and sound like us.. Instead we need to use these social tools to reach out to the other group and decide how best to work there to solve the same common problem that affects both.

  3. #3 by Mary Beth Raven on December 21, 2011 - 07:02

    You raise excellent points, both of you. Keep the comments coming.

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