Social media. What has it achieved?

I have a sense that all of us have opinions. We always have had them, however, our natural, innate reticence has generally required us, through the rules of our many different societies around the world, to be somewhat introspective and non-controversial. “Don’t rock the boat,” has been the clarion call of the ages. These strictures ensured that for centuries, the expression of our opinions took place behind closed doors, and only among like-minded people. Our opinions were shared, but not without any genuine bravery, as those who were hearing your message were already believers, converts, or at least ripe for conversion.
We read newspapers that reflected our own view of the world, that shared our life philosophies, and even reflected our life priorities in terms of our life rationale and common interests. If I lived in the UK, for example, and had business, political or economic priorities, I would probably read the Financial Times. If I favoured a broader view, possibly the Daily Mail, whereas if I just had a more salacious outlook, I would probably read The Sun.
Even our political ideologies were reinforced by the newspapers that clearly aligned themselves with political parties, in their endorsement of candidates. This meant that media owners such as the Rupert Murdochs and Kerry Packers of our world pretty much dictated the way we saw the world.
Today, in the USA Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is taking a significant share of news media ownership through his purchase of The Washington Post. Murdoch is still duking it out with the young guns through his News Corp. Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, has returned to the fold of his Bloomberg Media empire. One could cynically note that he has even manipulated his name off the rich list circulated by his publications, Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. Now if that’s not influence, what is?
So, prior to social media, we actually saw opinions expressed through discussion and debate in our political houses such as parliaments and congresses, and there was nothing we liked more than a good old display of political vehemence, charge and counter-charge, with the odd bit of scandalous revelation involved when things got really juicy.
Of course, those were the politicians, and in those days, they made all the decisions, and the common people rarely had any say. We went to war based on offence taken, as often as for legitimate reasons, and governments stood or fell based on their ability to make their political entities the most attractive option.
Most of all, we only associated with, or were exposed to those of the same societal, economic and therefore, political persuasions, and never the twain would meet. The infrequent exposures to other views of the same world were those circulated by the media, the occasional poster on a lamp-post, or a sarcastic bumper sticker like, “You’re not upset? You’re not paying attention.”
Now though, we have social media, and anyone can say anything to anyone about anything. Correct? Chris Bullivant put it this way, “The rise of social media has polarised society by herding us into self-reinforcing echo chambers.” I’m not certain that I agree with, or even understand what he is saying, but really, so much of social media is a cacophony of sound, and a visual assault on the senses. It’s just too much to handle.
I think that ordinary people should be restricted to a set number of social media messages each day, say ten. Educated people like me, for example, cultured, articulate, intelligent, worldly, because we have more sensible and more legitimate pronouncements to make, should be allowed to post twenty or thirty times daily as our opinions are clearly much better. Oh, and while I’m writing this, I’m looking at a bumper sticker in front of me, “Watch out for the idiot behind me!”

Ray Petersen
petersen_ray@hotmail.com