Social Media’s Oppressive Anger

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
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Social media users are becoming stale at creating new and interesting own-content
, thus allowing the networks to be hijacked by partisan politics, extremist religion, and to a lesser degree causes, anti-phobias and conspiracies. It is a hot pot of grumpiness.

Recent surveys suggested that “more than one-third of social media users are worn out by the amount of political content they encounter”. And, individually, you really are not contributing to the groundswell of content or discontent with fresh ideas. Same old, same old.

Both Facebook and Twitter are being populated with so much unoriginal content that they have become the premier platform for re-messaging (sharing/re-tweeting) partisan interests. The volume of conflicting ideas and philosophies in single medium has never been surpassed. Stop the internet, I just want to get off… enough, I just don’t care what you think, really!

Social media users are suffering information overload, and often this excess is of material they do not wish to deal with. The Pew Research Center suggests that “more than half (of users) describe their online interactions with those they disagree with politically as stressful and frustrating”. People with causes are using brutal force feed tactics to deliver their messages, often with horrific, gory images.

Content is stressful indeed. Those users let loose on social media who do create original content seem to pursue very blinkered views. They will not entertain contrary thoughts that may be different, unconventional, or even from a new perspective. Dogmatic content sometimes reflects, sometimes poorly, on the user’s general upbringing, philosophies and shaping.

To cap this, there is an awful lot of anger out there in social media. Clearly, this is an angry little world and so too is the content of social media. It is nasty. The tone of content is often disrespectful, condescending and, frankly, troubling. This anger is a reflection of the broader climate in our societies today. Who foments this anger and what is the end objective?

Add to this spurious, fake news. Social media users have a penchant for fake news distribution. They just cannot help themselves. Few take time to check and verify. Gullibility is at its peak. The more outrageous the better, and why not one might ask?

Governments and the mainstream media have been the masters of fake news for years. We used to call it propaganda. But today’s fake new is sensational, good reading for the bored masses and angry people. They are being fed, and we are all being manipulated.

Governments, in their infinite wisdom (takes tongue out of cheek), busy themselves with anti-hate laws in the hope that the problem will subside. It will not go away. Racism was never properly suppressed, its use moved simply from one hue to the other. It’s a cause that will not die. Nor will religious extremism.

Populations have aversions to those who are different and do not conform to custom. Social media provides a ready platform to offer discontent and multiplies the issues when legislated against. Germany’s proposal to fine social media companies for failing to remove illegal content “is a significant moment in democracy’s battle with digital giants”, according to some!

Social media moguls are extending the science of social media with artificial intelligence. Google has launched a new AI program called Perspective to detect “abusive” comments and hatred online. Facebook recently admitted “it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like”.

With both government and social media controls creeping in, users are actually seeing little relief. In fact the problem is getting worse, and the majority of users now try harder to avoid political and religious argument on social media.

Often, when avoidance fails, users take steps to filter or curate their feeds, frequently then eliminating the good material too! When the State takes a role in the media, the news is always biased, but boycott often leaves one without useful information.

The solution may lie very much in your choice of contacts and friends in social media. The average user is actually carrying too many contacts. Once it was vogue to have as many as you could muster, but alas, that is biting back.

Some interesting statistics suggest that two-thirds of your Facebook friends are generally known to you personally, while Twitter is almost the reverse. Yet of your contacts, only about a quarter have similar views to you, less than 6% opposing views about politics and the rest have mixed or neutral opinions. Selective pruning of your contacts may well be necessary.  But do you want to stick your head in the sand?

Unless you can achieve some peace of mind in social media, angry information overload will wear you down. One would think that if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, yet social media, especially Facebook, membership continues to climb. Clearly humanity needs its little dose of anger, its gripes, whinges and whines. We are being overwhelmed, it may be time for some to pull the plug on this social monster.

The Social Media Threat: Myth or Revolution

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIZimbabwe has a poor record for press freedom and transparency.  The suppression of the private press by the former ruling party is well chronicled, yet freedom of expression is so fundamental to the constitution. Somehow the more open and technologically advanced media, such as the internet, or more specifically social media, has evaded the thinking of crinkly, party political, old salts (or the ‘chefs’ as we know them) who seem to call the shots.  That is, until now.

If the former ruling party had its way, social media subscription and usage would be purged.  It is a case of ‘if it’s not for the party, it is forbidden’. The people would not be able to express themselves, as the constitution allows, freely and without fear or prejudice.   This would be a grand strike against mythical neo-colonialism and century old imperialism, which still pump up the political vocabulary! The people should, of course, be free to uphold their opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.  Well not quite.

You see, there is a little caveat in the constitution which provides for legitimate suppression of this freedom where free speech may interfere with the interests of say defense, public safety, public order, the economic interests of the State, public morality or public health.  That just about covers everything any would be activist might wish to touch upon.  It is a broad enough caveat, with all those old imperialists hiding behind the chivuru (ant hills), for any would-be law-enforcer to stifle the thoughts and expressions of any activist!

Despite this, and at its recently held party congress in Bulawayo, ZANU(PF), which still assumes to be the absolute ruling party and sole legislator, resolved to ‘crack down’ on social media.  For such a ‘crack down’ to happen this would mean the purging of to the entire internet or at very least a few of its activist users, perhaps by mean of incarceration.  People would be prevented from blogging, tweeting or sharing their thoughts on social media platforms.  It certainly seems like the ‘liberation party’ is fearful of democracy being liberated.

Contrary to this archaic, autocratic thinking, the party’s own, more youthful perhaps, science and technology department are proposing the increase usage of social media for canvassing Zimbabwe’s youth.  The party’s existing methods of communication are no longer vogue and in line with modern trends, so they argue.  Clearly the old school and the Young Turks have different ideas and the former are certainly not being courted by anything which smacks of any popular freedoms, especially those of expression.

Zimbabwe’s youth is well educated. They must surely see through such resolute, antiquated thinking coming from the party’s senior citizens.  One wonders, in fact, how this archosauric party manages to pull the wool over the eyes of its apparently sharp party youth.  Surely they must realise how their freedoms have been eroded during past decades, how the economy has declined to their prejudice, not to mention that tiny circle to which party patronage is solely devoted, again to their detriment.  What is in it for these clearly gullible youths?  Take away their social media and the party can kiss goodbye to the social media savvy vote.

Social media in Zimbabwe has exploded.  Government has facilitated this before lamely realising its potential as a weapon of democracy.  The mobile networks are advancing their technology from the simple ‘speak and messaging’ era.  Now, the ‘browse and social network’ epoch, the technology of tomorrow, is being released and utilised from mobile phones.  Per capita usage of mobile phones has reached a staggering 15-20% – (53 per 1000 in 2005) and, as well can be imagined, a huge portion of this is in the hands of the youth.

The septuagenarian leadership is, apparently, ever fearful of a revolution on its doors steps being generated by social media, much like that which happened in North Africa.  One has to question why they should be so troubled, especially when social media generates fodder for intelligence eaves dropping.  It is a valuable resource. By all their accounts, the ‘liberation’ party is so manifestly popular with the people and, given the chance, ‘the’ party would sweep the polls and resume its absolute power and control… so they say and yet still may.

So why would a happy and content, party partisan, population ever consider fomenting violent insurrection on the platform of social media?  Surely that eventuality is as ludicrous as the proposed ‘crack down’, or is there something these awful politicians have to fear; may perchance lose; or are perhaps hiding from their incredibly, so it would seem, loyal subjects?  Are there grounds for people to agitate and revolt and is the undercurrent so thick and strong now that this has our leaders trembling in their boots before the first stones are thrown?

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