It’s not often the presenters of the Today programme say something really dumb, but one day last week there was definitely use of the phrase ‘the values of the internet’. This was in the context of discussion as to whether The Twitter and The Facebook were going to have an unhealthy effect on traditional media, because of the weight of opinion that could be expressed and could build so quickly on those sites.
So a few points on that:
- To talk about ‘the values of the internet’ as though there’s some homogeneity is clearly nonsense. I’m fairly sure that if you click around for long enough you can find every variant of values expressed somewhere on the internet. It’s therefore an expression that can be used either as an endorsement or as a way of scaremongering for anything at all.
- Second, current forms of social media are just the latest ways in which people communicate and share their views, and yes, jump on bandwagons. It used to be chatting at the well, or in a coffee houses, or bars. The socialised aspect got easier, but it’s not new. What is new is the scale of it.
- It seems to me that if individuals are taking the time to express opinions, in whatever forum, then they should be listened to. That’s sort of the point of democracy, isn’t it? We can’t really choose not to listen to an opinion on the grounds that it’s the opinion of an uninformed mass. That mass is the electorate.
- Because unfortunately, that’s the flip side of living in a democratic society. Some people who really don’t know what they’re talking about (probably because they don’t listen to Radio 4) get to say stuff and, god help us, even get to vote.
So it strikes me that the problem isn’t social media, and it isn’t scale. It’s the fact that some people are uninformed. Well, maybe if they feel like they have a voice, some of those people will take the trouble to get informed?