When social media combines and competes with traditional media, it’s often exciting to watch the reaction to contentious issues spread around the internet as online folk read, digest and debate stories carried on the TV and print-based media. So this week has been fascinating in the way that the spotlight of the press has been turned on social media itself. The reaction has been predictable.
This, as anyone with more than a passing understanding of the web knows, is nonsense. Interaction with other people, whether online or face-to-face, brings obvious opportunities for communication and understanding. That point has been well argued elsewhere, not only by those working in social media but by that fantastic champion of reason and science, Dr. Ben Goldacre.
The online response to the Mail’s stories has been quick and wide-ranging. In particular, Twitter (that particular focus of the mainstream media’s ridicule) has lit up with reaction to recent stories. But then, it would, wouldn’t it? If social media is attacked, social media can only reasonably be expected to fight back.
A knowledgeable grouping of social media experts, headed up by the guys at Content & Motion has even launched an expanding online space intended to refute the stance taken by the Daily Mail.
All good stuff.
But are we missing the point?
Are we really asking the Daily Mail to express an open-minded well-informed view on anything involving change, technology, science or progress?
On the Daily Mail Social Media Fail site, a plea for common sense goes to Mail editor Paul Dacre. Surely, asking the Daily Mail for common sense is like asking the Pope for contraceptive advice.
The Daily Mail serves its purpose very well. It acts as an intellectual meeting point for those who like to panic and fuss about anything that threatens to steer our society away from the traditional or the conservative. The Mail Watch blog has been monitoring the Daily Mail’s coverage for some time.
Social media is simply the latest in a long list of targets such as immigration, vaccination, single parenthood, environmental concerns, multiculturalism and gay rights. Our society has a significant proportion of people who, for whatever reason, fear change and open-mindedness. The Daily Mail does an excellent job of finding topics to satisfy this conservatism. Frankly, I’m surprised it took them this long to turn their focus to social media and its fictional threat to our children’s mental health. Well done them.
But here’s the thing:
To be honest, I find it re-assuring that the Mail disapproves of something in which I believe. It acts as a kind of confirmation that if the Mail doesn’t like it, it’s probably something worth knowing about.
So I say don’t get angry, don’t get even, just feel satisfied. We are but the latest in a long line of people to have incurred the wrath of the conservative media. Social media, in its many forms, is seen by the likes of the Mail as an exciting agent of change. That’s why they are afraid of it, and that’s why we love it.
I’m not worried that the Mail disapproves of something I like. The day it lends its support to something I hold dear is the day I’ll be truly worried.