There are advocates for both sides of the digital fence: yes, social media makes our lives better because information is more readily accessible and therefore we are more aware than ever (Agrawal), and no, social media has turned people into inhumane robots incapable of forming meaningful relationships and paying attention to each other (Lee). However, instead of arguing about whether or not Twitter is going to turn teenagers in zombies, let’s look at how social media has changed the presentation of issues.
Social media is split in two. One hand is “grab and go” media, while the other is “ethical” media. What do these mean? Simply put, “grab and go” people are less interested in thinking about the impact behind a statement than they are with instant gratification: “grabbing” the information they want to see and “going” immediately on to their next task (Redish). “Ethical” readers want to engage in a conversation with the article and think about all aspects of it before moving on. There isn’t one way of reading that is necessarily ‘more correct’ than the other, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election has certainly brought to light why ‘grabbing and going’ can have a more negative effect than stopping to think about a bit of news before spreading it.
Donald Trump’s tweets are a perfect example of “grab and go” social media, like when he tweeted that Hillary Clinton had “no strength or stamina” (Skelton) after beating her in a Fox News poll of white evangelicals. The reaction was immediate: people who stand with him retweet as fast as they can and block the “ethical” readers who try to call them out for being ignorant or racist. People who retweet Trump aren’t interested in sitting down and listening to a rational argument against their views; they want validation for their beliefs, however wrong or right, from someone who has a lot of economic and political power.
Social media is the definition of a double-edged sword. Every time Trump posts a tweet, the “grab and goers” nod their heads and thank him for ‘telling it like it is’ while the “ethics” shake their heads and cry out for social justice. For every person that takes a stand against him, there is someone else out there who doesn’t care about being politically correct, tolerant, or socially educated. Social media is the herald for social justice, and the pit of despair for anonymous ignorance. But in the end, social media is just a tool and the user is one who decides whether it’s going to be helpful or hurtful.
Agrawal, AJ. “It’s Not All Bad: The Social Good of Social Media.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 18 Mar. 2016. Web. 02 Sept. 2016.
Lee, Jasmine C., and Kevin Quealy. “The 258 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 27 Jan. 2016. Web. 02 Sept. 2016.
Redish, Janice. “Chapter 1.” Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content That Works. 2nd ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann, 2007. 6. Print.
Skelton, George. “How Did Trump Become the Presumptive Nominee? Blame Twitter.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 5 May 2016. Web. 02 Sept. 2016.
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