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Social Media and its Role in Politics & Religion

I spend a lot of time on social media and the internet for a variety of reasons: Reading, learning, researching, marketing, and communicating to name just a few.

I have always respected the internet and the information that is so easily accessible. I remember the first time I browsed a website when the internet first became “live”.  Yes, I can still remember that day in the early 1990’s very clearly.  I even still have my original Hotmail email address that I created in that first exploratory reach into the unknown. Although I learned very little in the first foray, I did understand and appreciate the power such a tool would have in the future. Attending college never really inspired me to want to learn…it took being “romanced” by the era of technology for me to delve deep, learn, read, learn and read and learn some more.

At the time, I worked for a small direct marketing and research firm based out of Berkshire, and I was a true database and direct marketing geek. I was well-known throughout the direct marketing industry and I would get calls from all over Europe asking my advice about how to manage a direct marketing campaign and what criteria should be used to target a captive audience. Ironically, it was the people who worked in marketing at this time that developed the initial idea around identifying client personas without really realizing what we were doing.

The company’s client base was purely information technology and I was lucky enough to have worked with the greats: Microsoft, Dell, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, 3M to name just a few. I also worked with a lot of small companies who were dipping their toes into this exciting and rapidly developing industry for the first time. Being a part of a small company and its first timid steps has always inspired me, and even today I get excited when I am talking to a new client.

Social Media wise, I think my first account was on MySpace.  At the time MySpace was mostly sharing pictures and music.  It could have been so much more, but Facebook hit the market and MySpace slowly lost its way. Yahoo groups was also a fun zone to be in…chatting with people across the globe, learning and expanding horizons. I must admit, I never really saw the bad side of what the internet had to offer.  My focus has and always will be “a glass half full attitude”, and a positive outlook.

Never did I imagine pedophiles hunting down and talking to young children to persuade them to meet up, never did I imagine political parties sharing false information to win elections, never did I imagine massive churches taking money from parishioners in the way that they do today through online books and fake information. I guess I was still living the life of a young, hopeful adult that could only imagine the positive from this massive wheel that was only just beginning to spin.

Don’t get me wrong, I still see the massive positives that the internet delivers every single second of every hour in the day. I read extensively, and still value the available information, but I have learned to accept this information with either a small pinch or large bucket load of salt, depending on the website I am reading. I think the challenge a lot of people have when reading information online, be it a website or social media posts, is that they believe 100% of what they are reading and do not make a judgement call based on the source of the information.

People seem to have forgotten the old saying about “don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper”. The internet seems to add a level of truthfulness about topics…I mean, if they say they are “Doctor”, they must be a “Doctor”…right??!?

I do not think anyone understands or has information about how Russia supposedly affected the 2016 US Election or if there are “bots” flooding the pages and groups online. To try and keep track of all the memes, images, comments, news articles that travel across social media and to check them as they are posted for accuracy is by far, an impossible job. No matter how much we beg our family and friends to stop sharing inaccurate information, they continue to do so.

What I do think though is that everything should have its place. Each social media platform is different and has a job. Let us review the top 4.

  1. Facebook – Platform for consumers to share information and stories and for businesses to sell and promote themselves to those consumers and other businesses.
  2. Instagram – Platform to consumers and businesses to share images and to promote their ideas and services to their followers.
  3. Twitter – The favorite medium of the current resident of the White House, Twitter is a news feed platform that allows you to share short news alerts and information with your followers.
  4. LinkedIn – Platform for businesses and professionals to network and promote their services and skill sets.

All these social media platforms are great for the small business owner through to large conglomerates promoting their services and sharing their news. Of course, the more we use them as consumers, the richer the owners/CEOs get but everyone gets something out of them if they log in to their account.

Without Facebook, I would not have recently got back in touch with my best friend from school. Without WhatsApp, I would never be able to afford to speak to my daughter in England every day for sometimes an hour at a time. We all have similar stories.

My question today though goes back to the social media platform’s job. Should any of their jobs in the widest sense of the platform’s definition include politics and religion? Politics and religion are both taboo subjects over the dinner table, so why are they not also taboo on your social media timeline. Facebook and Twitter are now so infected with politics that I do not believe there is a chance to reverse the rapid spread of a pathogen that is a major part of today’s industrialized society.

Instagram and LinkedIn are so far almost protected from the political/religious virus. Sadly, today I spotted a few political and religious posts creeping into my LinkedIn feed. I have been on LinkedIn for 6 years and have over 3500 connections and I review my feed and connections daily. I have always been quietly happy that LinkedIn has kept to their job of networking, job searching, business promotion, and marketing.  It has been my breathing space from a world gone a little mad!  That now appears to be changing.  It seems that inappropriate posts are creeping to onto my news feed that include obvious political and religious grandstanding.

Who is willing to fight for LinkedIn and the clean job that it does? Who is willing to stand up and say NO to RELIGION and POLITICS on LinkedIn?

Will it be the product managers at Microsoft who will put their foot down and announce to the world that anyone on LinkedIn promoting a political or religious agenda will be removed? Or will it be all the professionals who have proactively used LinkedIn since 2002 when it was launched? Either way, action needs to be taken, and I hope that the managers at LinkedIn and Microsoft take note and keep LinkedIn politics and religion-free.

 

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