This article was written by April Gregory and originally published on Smedio.
If the political upheaval in Egypt has taught us one thing, it’s that social media now has incredible power to influence. But is that power becoming too dangerous?
History has shown us that giving too much power to a single voice can be VERY dangerous. One need only look to Hitler, Moa Zedong, Idi Amin, and a host of other incidental dictators for proof that giving one voice too wide a birth can sink an entire nation.
Now it’s happening in Egypt, only this time the corrupting nature of power has shifted from the ruler to his subjects. And the consequences appear to be the same—the bringing down of a nation. Regardless of where you fall on the issue of Mubarak and Egypt, we need to ask ourselves if the technological advances we seek, in an effort to better our lives, are actually having the opposite affect?
Let’s incorporate the business end of things into this argument. You might consider a “brand” a company’s voice. A well-promoted brand has the power to influence our opinions to the point that the brand’s “opinion” of things becomes the opinion we adopt and then share with others. It has the potential, as in politics, to go viral and that can be dangerous because it may not be entirely true. We’ve only been led to believe that it’s true.
The same holds true for one customer’s opinion that goes viral. It may or may not be true, but it’s out there and has incredible power to influence. If positive, that opinion or voice can be of great benefit to a company. If negative, that opinion or voice now, with the advent of social media, has the power to destroy a company. But that is the nature of sales…and we are ALL selling something, whether promoting our opinion, ideals, or our brand.
It would seem, therefore, that there comes a point in the development of a product or ideal where we exceed our ability to use it responsibly. In other words, the product or ideal takes on a power to corrupt, as well as to save. For instance, we could say that the nuclear bomb has been both a saving and corrupting development. In order to save, it has to kill or threaten to kill. In the case of social media, we are now witnessing its true power, both to save and to destroy. Social media has blessed us with the ability to connect with family, friends, and customers like never before. But it wields a terrible curse as well. Social media is not unlike a nuclear bomb. The one who holds the launch keys holds all of the power.
Thus, it all comes down to the human element once again. No technology can breathe on its own. A human being must be involved at some point. Yes, we must maintain freedom of speech and thought, but no matter where technology leads us, we will always have a responsibility to each other to act responsibly in its use.