There is no denying it, we are in the facebook era. With over 900 million users, the public has never been more exposed and globally connected. One reading this may agree, but likely conclude, that the banter on Facebook is similar to the banter on Wikipedia; it is inefficient, random, and full of opinions, often coming from those not qualified to make them. In other words, the information and quality has little fact value.
● A quick and easy way for people to connect with one another: For example, if I wanted to hold an event to talk about the environment all I would need to do is start a facebook group and keep it as public, or #something on twitter (this is also what is referred to as a thread);
● A quick and easy way to tap into a social milieu or cultural meme: This would be accomplished by the government body allowing others to “follow them” on some social website and holding polls about important government issues;
● A database for tracking trends and creating them: By making a Facebook page or Twitter feed, the government body will automatically be creating a history of opinion, especially if utilizing the Facebook timeline inherent in the software;
● Quick access to the latest idea and/or innovation: An inspired, well-educated, sovereign people will naturally have ideas, all governments have to do is tap into this and stop standing in their own way;
● Personal, local, and national branding.
Social media allows many different people from different cultures and backgrounds to form intellectual coalitions, often with polarizing results. In a like manner, it allows governments to do the same. Besides, what is a government besides an agglomeration of people? After all, the Arab Spring holds that social media, namely Facebook, was the impetus for such a coordinated and massive effort, an effort extending beyond sovereign boundaries. Arab Spring is a coordinated overthrow of authoritative Arabian government leaders in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. It is likely the most revolutionary dynamic in human political thought of our time. The reign of many of these leaders has lasted hundreds of years and now, because dissidents are able to virtually communicate, the former leaders have been ousted.
As the world becomes more connected and social media makes the dissemination of ideas more accessible, it will become increasingly important to government agencies and planners. The grassroots have never been more empowered, and they can now blog about whatever they need or want changed. Even if only 5% of 900 million Facebook users see a thought, word, or deed on some person or a government, that’s still 45 million people from all over the world who see it. This is how powerful social media is today. Perhaps it always has been, just not digitally.
In a society where all are connected by social media, should all government decisions be put to a truly democratic vote on social media sites? What would the world be like if it truly were a democracy? How would planning change?
Credits: Image and data linked to sources.