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How Social Media is Changing History

I've not only been participating actively in social media for the past few years, but I've been publicly advocating my position.  I've often said that it is not only the participatory aspects of the media, or the transparency, but also the many ways in which it enables natural communities to form and enables their members to develop meaningful and real connections, often far deeper and trust-building than those developed in "real life."  To many, I assume, this sounds quite amazing at best and rather stupid at worst.  But I stand firm in my assessment of the power and meaningfulness of social media.

But it is actually quite meaningless to defend social media.  Social media and virtual networks are already the most dominant form of global media and will only continue to expand in both substance and form.  Not only from the perspective of cost/performance, but also from the sheer power which it harnesses, the Internet is both absorbing and redefining every other major media form of the past thousand years – print, telephone, recorded sound and images, and radio and television.  As the Internet becomes dominated by social applications and media, each of these different kinds of media become things that individual users not only consume, but produce, interpret, advocate, and distribute.  We each not only get our newspaper, telephone, and TV, but we have our printing presses, broadcast stations, and editing booths.  This is not only tremendously powerful, but it is becoming inconceivably inexpensive.

What this does is make it possible for each individual in this era to become a part of a history-making process.  It means that the ecosystem will become increasingly noisy, but there will be more and more voices heard through the noise and the clearest voices will be echoed ever louder, clearer, and more permanently.  This is making a tremendous impact on how we learn, how we think, how we act, and how we stand.  Most of its effects, particularly the really positive ones, have not reverberated to our schools, churches, communities, companies, or governments.  Many among us remain skeptical, even a bit haughty about this whole mad rush.

But Pandora's box is open and will never be closed again.  I'm rushing to the roughest waters in search of the gnarliest waves.  Life has never been better and I've no reason or desire to look backwards, except to remember from whence we came and in honor of those who couldn't adjust to the changes.

I know I'm not the only one who is feeling the same way.  I know that most of us are a lot younger than me, but this doesn't make me feel old.  We're in for a wondrous ride in our wonderful world and I'm not just sitting on a roller coaster; We're all in the driver's seat – together!

Clay Shirky: How social media can make history


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