In the past two years it is clear that the world has changed with regards to news and communication. Social media with its different tools became the source for many people of each and every piece of information and the source for each and every rumor.
In our region, I feel its impact has many aspects to our day-to-day life. As we have become more and more dependent on social media, and not realizing how damaging that can be, social media has managed to change our way of communicating with each other; for example, I have noticed how many of us use Facebook or Twitter to congratulate, send birthday wishes, invite to events or parties and even send condolences to one another. If we just pause for thought, this is a really dangerous sign, we are losing the “real” communication with people, and without the actual human touch, we are also losing people communication skills. We are becoming like robots with our own free will. What is more, many are exhibiting signs of addiction to social media; we are staying late to check it, we are checking it when we are not supposed to (e.g. at work or in a lecture), we check it even when we are with guests or friends, and what’s more we are oblivious to the many family and friends requests we get to stop spending so much time “on our computer”. We realize we are doing it too much at some times but we are unable to stop ourselves. We are truly addicted.
Politically, we have started gathering news from any person who calls himself as an activist in his bio. Without checking the background of the person or the source of information. What is worse is that even international media fell into this trap and are now quoting so-called Arab activists without waiting for confirmation on the source. I don’t blame us, or the international media, in this regard as we are addicted to the fast pace of our digital lives and are always ready to hear “breaking news”, even if there is nothing “breaking” about it. We have to admit that social media is controlling many aspects of our lives, changing our minds and political thoughts and maneuvering us into different directions. We love it, and fell head-over-heels with it. This addiction, coupled with a clear lack of reliable fast-paced official media, made us more vulnerable for accepting social media as our sole source of political news and rumors, despite its many faults and inaccuracies.
I still believe it is not too late to rebuild the trust with proper media to stop this chaos that is sometimes ruining the lives of real people. We are in desperate need of a white revolution in official media in the Arab region and especially in Jordan. They cannot stay in this drowsy state as they are and watch their decline in ratings and support. The officials must also be sick of being on the defensive side all the time. Our media, whether official or privately-owned, needs to become proactive and flourish us with accurate information and news as it happens, we need to feel they have up-to-date, reliable news, and the people will come back.
This is a call for all, for we are all to be blamed here. There are always side effects to any addiction and we are now paying the price; let us put our heads together and work on how we can channel those tools to be of assistance to us and not to control us. Let us feed them with correct and rapid information so we can lead in how the news stories develop and not be led. It is time to use the social media to make us more knowledgeable of facts and wise opinions and less of hate mail, false rumors and prejudiced opinions. Once these reliable e-forums are built, people will stop going to the inaccurate or prejudiced sites that are full of profanities just to get a snip of a news story. Then, and only then, can we be free of our addiction. Let us do this soon before we wake up from our drowsy state and realize it’s too late.
Deema I. Alam