Even in the depths of the social media backlash, there’s reason for hope

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

At the end of a session at LCC today — I’m doing a small series of workshops on social media in journalism for the 2nd year undergraduates there under the auspices of Russell Merryman — one of the students approached me to talk about her idea for her project.

She wanted to do something about the #metoo movement, and we ended up having quite an involved discussion about the roots of the movement with Tarana Burke, through the way it hit the mainstream, and the developments since. And from there, we ranged back to Susan Fowler’s blog post that triggered the collapse of Uber’s reputation and the ousting of its founder.

And then we talked about the way the surviving students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida have harnessed social media to tell their story and make their political points in the wake of the terrible tragedy last week.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the social media bathwater

Much of the narrative around social media has been relentlessly negative for the last year, and in many cases that is utterly deserved. I make no apologies for my criticism of Facebook in recent weeks. This, though, is a timely reminder that ordinary people can harness the power of social media, just as Trump or the Internet Research Agency can.

Yes, there are things to be uncomfortable about – parts of #metoo stray a little too far into “guilty until proven innocent”, for example – but it would be hard to argue convincingly that it has been overwhelmingly positive in opening up conversations about abuse, and it starting a shift in public perceptions.

Social media is yet young. A lot of what we’re seeing is just its growing pains. Let’s hope and pray that it grows into a more positive force for good – as well as doing everything we can to make sure it does through our own actions.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.