Social media and society.

Prestolee has written a post on social intimacy and Twitter, where he says

the networked nature of Twitter naturally [favours the stronger individuals], those with great reach in their networks can exploit their networks more effectively. We should seek to make twitter more accessible to all and be careful to welcome newcomers

and

there’s a definite bias towards the educated professional with values of respect, liberty and justice. However, this won’t build directly build a more cohesive society in our locality unless we can build stronger local networks. Perhaps we should deliberately seek to connect with other Twitter users in our local area rather than just those we connect with through our usual professional and personal networking

Whilst it might be true that Twitter favours both the strong and the elite, there are few barriers to using Twitter: one of the things I like about Twitter is how open it is.

With computer usage and mobile internet (through phones) rising, use of social media is open to all. The elite might be early adopters – and I’ll bet a lot of those move on once there is more general uptake – and the strong might have the social skills or power to make good use of the system, but they aren’t actually stopping anyone else using it: it isn’t a zero sum game (although at some point Twitter might need to get some bigger servers… or work out how to make some money!).

I would say Twitter is pretty accessible to those who want to use it. Not everyone will want to. Those that do want to can use it in their own way – there are no rules.

I think that social media may actually open up networking to those who believe they are weak or that networking is for the elite: anyone can make connections using their computer – including those who are shy or find it difficult talking to people they don’t know.

One of the things which has surprised me is how easy it is to make social connections through Twitter: I had been a user of Twitter for only a couple of days when I was invited to a Tweetup, and Twitter can certainly promote offline contact.

By opening up these tools to everyone – all strata in society (especially in the light of the UK Government’s Digital Britain initiative, although I can’t help thinking Government IT projects rarely deliver what they intend), the disenfranchised as well as the strong and the elite – I think social media may well have a democratising influence: I believe as people use social media, there will be a drive for a more open society and great information freedom.

Though I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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