“The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people.” – Jon Ronson
Despite my infinite respect for Jon Ronson as a writer and person, I cannot help but approach this quote with a certain degree of uncensored skepticism. Although I would agree that social media has the potential to be an open space in which people whose paths may not otherwise cross have the opportunity to find friendships, whether that is the result in many cases is another question. I would also agree that people of a similar age to me do find it considerably easier to talk online, through the casual medium of superficial slang, however is that always a positive? Hiding behind screens is an easier position to critique from than face-to-face, which can result in hurtful things being sent. After all, another Jon Ronson quote is: “With social media, we’ve created a stage for constant artificial high drama. Every day a new person emerges as a magnificent hero or a sickening villain.” Evidently, even Ronson himself is aware of the inevitable stumbling blocks of social media.
I also believe that the use of the word “was” is very crucial to Ronson’s point in his statement. This suggests that although initially it was a definite positive that voiceless people were given a voice, now some people’s voices may spew words unhelpful. They were voiceless, but now they can be faceless, and they sneer and scorn from the safety of their unknown location – simply a username on a screen. I also believe Ronson talks about the great thing about social media deliberately, as even before it was twisted in its use, there were few great things about it.
Despite my dubiety, this quote is seemingly intended to commend rather than curse, and even my cynical self can’t deny the infinite wisdom shared over social media. There’s no doubt that the blossoming of social media alongside other technological developments has had a colossal impact on our modern society, for example not only our eased communication with people around us but with the whole world – thoughts and ideas can be shared within moments of their construction.
Alongside ideas, help is also so much easier to find on a platform of this kind – reaching out has never been easier. From checking up on your mates if they’ve been feeling down to forwarding links to helplines they might need, social media has undoubtedly helped break down barriers of isolation among teens. Internet friends are not something I ever imagined as a younger child to be practical, but they are relied upon by some otherwise “voiceless” people, who find it difficult to connect in person.
Despite this, as humans we are social creatures. Being on “social” media does not make you any more social than standing in a garage makes you a car. To be social is to engage with other communities and people, not simply to voice opinions behind the cover of the internet. Although internet friends may seem a blessing, their prospect might just have negative contributions. Whether the voiceless people may be disabled, shy, or just socially awkward, with the ability to rely upon internet friends they may never have to actually interact socially in person. This could lead to them becoming insular because of their ability to filter the people they come into contact with, and therefore be lacking in everyday social skills, such as interacting with a variety of people. This could be massively detrimental when it comes to times in which that level of personal interaction is critical, from job interviews even to family gatherings.
All in all, I (as I’m sure you can tell) regard social media with a generally negative attitude. Although I disagree with the compulsive behaviour it generates and the “constant artificial high drama”, I would agree with this specific Ronson quote, essentially because of the use of the word “was”. I believe that social media (or something of the sort) was inevitable, and is a necessary evil. Can you imagine the range of effects if social media had come about at a different period of history – the time of the Suffragettes, for example? How might their campaign have been impacted- would we have seen millions taking to the streets in pre-organised efforts, and a revolution that made international headlines? We will never know, but I think that we should make the most of the potential benefit that is social media in this time when we’re lucky enough to have it. Let’s let the voiceless people have voices, whatever they may say.