Why It Is Important to Democratize Social Media

The internet and more specifically social media has often been referred to as the great equalizer. This is because of the fact that when you look into social media you are basically getting the most out of your experience by saying whatever is on your mind, and this has allowed certain people to gain followings in spite of the fact that they don’t have mainstream media backing.

There was a time not all that long ago when media was all about consumption. You were given broadcasts that you consumed, and conversations could only be had in person, over the phone or through text messages. At most you could be part of a chat group and this would facilitate debates with your peers but this was the extent of how far your reach was if you were not regularly appearing on TV.

In the modern age, people that don’t appear on TV can still get the word out and allow people to gain an opinion that is not sponsored by corporate interests or television channels. Or at least, that is the way it is supposed to be and could have been, but the way that social media has manifested itself has led to things becoming pretty much the same way they used to be.

Now, there is an elite class of social media users who have a large number of followers, and they are the ones that are able to spread their message to a large number of people. When it comes to gaining followers in the first place, the only real way to do so is by talking and not listening. You are supposed to have opinions if you want followers and voice these opinions, but actual debate is not made possible.

People are basically not willing to debate and listen to one another on social media because of the fact that this does not give them the validation and success that they are craving. Receiving attention for your views is the sort of thing that can really help you gain a following, and this is basically how users tend to operate in this regard since they do not need to actually have conversations to meet their goals.

This is why it is important to change the way we approach social media. One of the first things that need to happen is that social media needs to be democratized. Influencers are now paid by big companies to make posts that are in favor of their sponsors. There needs to be a lot more transparency surrounding this kind of activity, but that is only the first step.

Social media’s emphasis on talking rather than listening needs to be stressed as much as possible. People need to relearn one of the most important social skills that we learn during childhood, the social skill that involves choosing what you say carefully and being willing to hold certain things back because of the fact that they are not going to be all that important nor will they add anything useful to a conversation that is being had.

Once these changes are made it will be far more likely that social media would end up becoming the democratic place ripe for debates that it was always meant to be.

Photo: People Images / Getty Images

Read next: The Impact of Social Media Bots on Modern Democracies
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