Last month the London Science Museum polled its adult visitors about what they couldn’t live without. Are you ready for this…? Facebook came in fifth. Ahead of toilets, showers and fresh vegetables…!
Most people have seen the movie “Social Network” or at least have formed an opinion about social media. To the outsiders it’s everything from a frivolity to a failure. To the insiders it’s everything from a friend to a force. Like the computer which spawned it, it has become a virtual extension of ourselves into wherever and whoever we choose to reach.
Humanity has had other such extensions. The sword…the plow…the pen…the car. Each has given us a tool with which we have either created or destroyed. Funny thing about humans — we like to do both. To explain this maddening dualism, some religions point to Genesis; evolutionists point to genes. Either way, you have to hope that if there are ETs, some of them will be a lot nicer than us.
It’s good to remember that Facebook and other social media are ethically neutral. Neither good nor bad in themselves, it is how the user uses them that matters. For instance the social-networking site Badoo.com took an international poll recently to garner world opinions. It showed “Americans are the world’s coolest nationality.” Which may surprise most of our hand-wringing cable pundits and their 24/7 agonizing over the demise of America. On the other hand, being “cool” may not necessarily mean being “great;” history’s poll will be the one to watch.
If you happen to have an affection for polls, here are two encouraging ones Gallup took using social media: (1) 86% of Americans now approve of marriage between whites and blacks; in 1958 only 4% did; (2) 46% of Americans have no preference about the gender of theirs boss; a sharp shift from the 1960s male-dominated culture of “Mad Men” and “Playboy”
However, not everyone has been charmed by our ways. Long before we had social media, Oscar Wilde looked across the Atlantic from London and sniffed: “America is the only country that has gone from primitivism to barbarism without ever passing through civilization.”
Oh wait…! Playboy and Hefner are back on NBC this fall. Makes you wonder if Oscar had a point. To paraphrase: You can take the American out of the Wild West, but you can’t take the wild out of the American.
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