Social Media Immediacy

There is no doubting that one of the potent differentiators of Social Media as a communication channel is its immediacy. This immediacy results in many different reactions; commonly including informed considered soliloquy, logical passionate adult debates, farce, tragedy, cynical recidivism and ruthless emotional lambasting. Nothing has encapsulated this more than the Kony2012 meme of the past couple of days.

The fact a shed-load of folks have, in a short period of time, awoken to the ongoing harsh reality of the military use of children in (what I will term) Middle Africa is a step forward. Social media can achieve in hours or days what has previously taken years; and in some cases can disseminate particular information to folks who would previously have never come across it.

However, this immediacy comes with a number of risks and pitfalls which increasingly radiate outside the divergent social media reality into the real world. Examples of this I have observed during these #Kony2012 days include:

  • Need to take action now, to be a part of the virus as it spreads (or be left behind in the eyes of your network) – peer pressure on steroids
  • Want to dismiss any dissenting voice with a force far more disrespectful and trigger-happy than in person – effectively bullying
  • Selectively short-handing complex issues into flat-packs for easy efficient digital dissemination – cutting out elements of the whole story
  • Use of overly emotional propaganda that dilutes the facts; or often spins the facts out of the equation – style over substance

As the mainstream media continues to flirt with social media reporting in order to retain its relevance, the results of this immediacy are transferred into our everyday lives via more traditional publication and broadcast mediums.

What I want to see in response to a campaign like #Kony2012 is debate, discussion, disagreement, dissection and even direct action. What I have observed so far less than that, and I feel that the immediacy of social media is to blame. Do you agree, and if so how can this be changed?

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One Response to Social Media Immediacy

  1. mixhelle says:

    I think what you’ve done right here is a good example of how to use the immediacy effect to stimulate a larger discussion.

    I’ve spent some of the last 24 hours letting people in my networks know more about the background of sustainable change, effective “aid”, and the trying to contextualise the issue in response to the #Kony2012 campaign. I’ve pointed them to other opinions, other voices and it’s encouraged debate, discussion, dissection and disagreement. It’s been a lively time, but the effect has been that a bunch of people have stopped, thought, talked and considered it further.

    The rapidity of this campaign has been masterful. I’ve watched as people in other timezones woke up, clicked, shared and spread it far and wide.

    I first came across it in a live music group forum, and at first glance thought is was a tour for some visiting artist. I had to scratch my head a bit, as I usually do before I click, and then I remembered that Kony was Joseph Kony, the monster target of Invisible Children. Ahhh, I thought, here we go.

    I was poised and ready to research. Granted, Africa is something I know a tiny bit about, and is a special interest of mine, but it didn’t take long to find alternative points of view and be able to link to those for others to read.

    Do I agree with you? Yes. Can it be changed? Yes, but not for everyone. I think immediacy stimulates critical analysis, it makes us stop and think harder. But there’s one born every minute, and hoaxes still do the rounds. I hope that each and every time a rapid fire campaign sets out, it makes more and more people think critically. Am I dreaming?

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