The concept of society was best explained by English man Thomas Hobbes in his theory of social contract. The absence of society is a state of nature which Hobbes describes as “solitary, poor, nasty, short and brutish”. In this condition, individuals’ actions are bound only by their personal power and conscience. “In the absence of society i.e. political order and law, everyone would have unlimited natural freedoms, including the right to all things…an endless war of all against all.”
In pre-historic times, the hunting and gathering age, man often had to protect himself from other predators, including his own kind. The survival of the fittest as it was then, is still the same in today’s digital age. The social contract, as described by Thomas Hobbes, explains that men were necessitated to enter into an agreement to combine efforts to protect their economic and social existence. It was from this agreement that society was formed and has from then evolved till this present day.
With social media, nothing really has changed. What indeed that has taken an unprecedented turn is the intensity and speed of communication as well as the range covered. Today, events happening in the Far East can be accessed all over the world in milliseconds with just the touch of a button. This only became possible within the last 50 years out of over 6,000 years of recorded human history. Communication and connection with people all over the world has broken all possible boundaries with the advancement in the social media and information communication technology.
Today, individuals have more followers than many countries and regions put together. The dynamics of society and international community relations has changed totally with non-state actors been able to affect the decisions and influence situations in ways that seem impossible a few decades ago. These events gives us an insight to what the future holds for a social media driven society.
Firstly, we must understand that human relations is about communications and that social media is indeed a communication tool empowered by technology. What this means is that more voices will be heard as social media gives them a platform to air their opinions and views like never before. This further implies that voices which were once marginalized, oppressed and segmented will have a golden opportunity to speak and influence politics and community.
The idea of a social media driven society is really democratic in all ramifications. Democracy itself is defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Social media platforms allow the ideals of representative government to flourish once again. This is achievable because misrepresentation of the needs of the people and unfriendly policies are quickly debated and disproved.
With the positives of social media gearing towards granting all and sundry a cost-free platform to communicate to the world, the negatives are also evident. Perhaps, one of the arguments put forward in support of the proposed Social Media Bill was to censor hate speech and the use of social media to motivate unhealthy political rivalry and instability. This is not far from the truth.
We live in a world of moral plurality, where another man’s meat is truly another man’s poison. As stated previously, unlimited individual freedoms will destroy the foundation of the human society. The social media or digital community must also be bound by the theory of social contract.
In every society, there is a social contract, an acceptable means of conduct among peoples for a peaceful coexistence. Social media can only be a reflection of a society where this social contract is strengthened and protected. Social media amplifies the true character of every society.
The negative impact of social media has to reside with the users of the technology themselves. As explained earlier, social media is a communication tool that can improve the quality of lives, economy and well-being of any given society. It’s like a gun which can be used to defend rights or to take away lives. In this case, the mind of the shooter is the prevalent factor. Education remains essential.
Social media connects us to millions of people who use social media platforms every day. Facebook is the biggest social media platform in the world as of today. Facebook has 2.5 billion active users every month, with five new profiles created every second. Average time spent on Facebook is 20 minutes and every minute 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated and 136,000 photos are uploaded.
What will you do with so much power available at a touch of a button?
The future is dependent on what we do today. What we post and how we use social media will greatly determine the course of our future. Destiny is not a matter of chance; it’s a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.
Paschal Agonsi. Please send Comments to: [email protected]