No discussion of globalisation and the media is complete without a foray into the world of social media. Hailed by many as the ultimate connective medium, social media has the potential to bridge the gap between cultures and countries. Social media as a medium should be McLuhan’s ‘Global Village’ coming to life. But is it?
While it certainly has the potential to be, more often than not social media acts as nothing more than a convenient echo chamber. Rather than encouraging us to explore the vast wealth of different cultures and opinions available around the world, the majority of social media platforms have been developed or evolved (often by design) to be reflections of our own cultural beliefs and standards.
Conventional ‘friendship’-based social media networks such as Facebook will inherently give users a view of the world that is centric to their socioeconomic situation and geographic region. Put simply, despite being a ‘global network’, Facebook is little more than the online version of your local community. Even then, the Facebook Wall is designed to hide content that users would find ‘boring’ or disagreeable (Edgerank, 2014), limiting your online world to the small fraction that you’ll find most agreeable.
Yet even when we delve into more global networks like Twitter or Reddit, we find that users will choose to segment themselves into very niche or specific topics or regions. Reddit itself has appropriated the term ‘circlejerk’, to refer to the never-ending reinforcement of popular ideals or viewpoints on the site’s respective ‘subreddits’.
Despite our growing dependence on global social media networks, our ability to limit ourselves to a very narrow perspective of the world is becoming easier and simpler. With an ever-increasing number of geo-specific, language specific and purpose-specific social media networks coming into existence on a near daily basis, this trend is unlikely to slow down.
We are more globally connected than ever before in history. Yet our global village is starting to look an awful lot like a set of global echo chambers.
Edgerank, 2014. Edgerank. Available at http://edgerank.net/