Here’s the first entry under the Writing category. It’s also a “working example” of the kind of post I’ll be putting under this category.
In this case, I’m starting out with a description of something. Here, it’s social media and one way that it’s used. Because this is filed under the “Cyberpunk” subcategory, the second half is how this modern system is or could be used in the future, written almost in a “handbook of social media dos and don’ts from highly effective corporations” style.
Again, this isn’t an endorsement or a condemnation of practices, but rather an interpretation of how — in this case — social media might evolve, from the perspective of a cyberpunk universe.
Social Media Now
One of the supposed benefits of social media is that it allows people to address entities larger then them, but also to aggregate their telepresence for a cause. Social media has given individuals the opportunity to broadcast their voices into a void, but to tie their posts together via links and hashtags so that what would otherwise be a single unheard voice merges together with thousands or millions of others in a show of force that is difficult to ignore.
Despite the various troubles that social media has (privacy concerns, pop culture irrelevance, harassment, etc), it is a democratic platform in both design and in purpose.
Social Media Later
The downside to this kind of hashtivism is that it’s only one step above doing nothing at all.
The history of organized movements dead-ended the day that the hashtag was born. Before our ability to reach everywhere on the back of a pound-symbol, human beings had to gather in public in order to make a significant statement. This ranged anywhere from peaceful sit-ins to unruly mobs, but getting on board for something required an effort, which meant that those who actually showed up were really serious about the situation.
Today, it takes almost zero effort to re-Tweet or to sign an online petition. It’s almost a throw-away action that can be done in less time than it takes for a commercial break. Anyone can claim themselves to be on-board with a movement if all it takes is no effort at all, but the best part is that everyone can see you doing it, thanks to the follows and re-Tweets that reach around the globe.
This is beneficial to concerned parties because a pile of Tweets does not an angry mob make, no matter how much sarcasm or profanity is involved. For a savvy organization, be it a corporation or a government, proper management of hashtivism can make consumers and voters feel that they’re involved in a process by encouraging that they put as little effort into the process as possible.
There’s no guarantee that any hashtags or petitions actually reach anyone who is in any position to do anything about it, nor is there any reassurance that if the aggregated ire is seen by those who can act upon it, any action is taken. Managing the belief that “someone is listening” can be of great benefit to an organization or government because just having that perception that good is being done with a tap is enough to give people a “warm glow” that they’re helping without having to actually get involved with money or time.
The best way to do this is to ensure that the outcome of the campaign that hashtivists are aligning against is pre-determined, to provide a “honey-pot” campaign that ties up the efforts of organizers, or to simply inundate social media with so many false positives that their involvement becomes muddied and meaningless. In any case, the participants may either feel that they accomplished their goals, or they will simply “fire and forget their ire” as they return to their binge viewing and meme generation.