Social Media and National Borders: An Emerging Contradiction?
NB: This post is not about Kanye West.
Spurred by the recent events in Gaza and the constant stream of social media in relation to the events - and others around the world - it appears that social media is in someway responsible for the first premise of this argument: it's made the world a smaller place. It's made it smaller by bringing events from thousand of miles away, in all direction, as close to us (in terms of information) as the name of our neighbours dog. Which leads to the second premise: it's brought this information closer than the name of our neighbours dog. I would have to build a relationship with my neighbours, or actively seek their dogs name to gain this information. Whereas my phone, and therefore my news apps, travel with me everywhere and are nothing more than a touch of a button. No relationship. No permission.
The result of this is that the world is not only smaller, in terms of information, but that I can feel closer to an event in China than my neighbour. Therefore, whilst social media has reduced the distance between myself and information in China it has increased the likelihood that I am more distant from information closer to home unless it immediately affects my own life. Whilst all of this information allows me to feel more of an active participant in events of the world, I equally feel less of a participant in the events of the world that surround me directly. Choosing to read your BBC news app at the dinner table whilst your family speak of their day may be one example.
Social media has also, in the case of Gaza, brought about a consensus that has been felt by millions of people all over the world, causing them to march in protest. The consensus that what is happening in Gaza is not okay. And so, for many, solidarity has been bred through the contactless information sharing of an event which is emotive by a source which is read and not perceived. As opposed to the solidarity felt by those on a train platform witnessing a man being beaten, which relies on sensory information and shared experienced in close proximity. Although no different to radio broadcasts in WWII, perhaps, this type of engagement has become an everyday event. This somewhat global consensus symbolises discontent on a global scale of that which is undemocratic. Emerging, for me, in particular, with the advent of the Arab Spring in 2011.
However, we have also experienced (particularly in the West) unprecedented favour of far-right politics which is critical of all that is 'sharing'. Critical of all that is in favour of an emergent 'beyond our nation' solidarity in the interest of one fixed end for all. Except the solidarity in consensus that we agree to not have one. Indicative of a shared cross-borders consensus itself. We are all agreed to live in a way which states that we do not agree to live in the same way.
So whilst it appears that social media may have assembled a future in which it appears to be possible - and sometimes inevitable - that the world will come to share a single view of actions such as bombing children for their occupation of a piece of land as wrong, we are equally agreeable that certain places should be inhabited by certain people whom belong to a certain place. As demonstrated by the anti-immigration policies of those far-right parties. So we do have a shared single view: that we agree that our land is our land whilst action taken against the removal of persons from that land by fatal force or authority is not always acceptable, moral or justified.
In conclusion, whilst establishing closer proximity as though far reaching countries are our neighbours, we are actively undermining the relations with 'our neighbours' by creating stronger barriers between us. Whilst this suggests we are simply interested in the longevity and prosperity of ourselves, and our nation, we continue to practice both interest in the global events and the lives of others, whilst separating ourselves physically, contemporaneously. What is our space has become our space, whilst we share our collective views of the world without borders in cyber-space. From economics, to democracy or what we feel to be a basic sense of morality.
This overall contradiction is reinforced by its very means. Whereby the more we share the more we are attempting to separate, therefore undermining this separation the more we seek new ways to share and connect. How this will come to rest is not only interesting but appears as though it will be naturally contentious as the contradiction stretches itself to its limits.
It could even be said that this is not a contradiction at all, but an instinctive response to the uncertainty of the world we inhabit. In the same way that if you were to live in a cave and you stepped outside to learn more about the world and felt troubled by the dangers of it, you would likely retreat back inside for protection. But, that example doesn't include a live Twitter feed of: '@OutsideTheCave'. Or perhaps that's just good sense so you can put the stone door back blocking your ventilation when it's only absolutely necessary, when you know a threat is imminent. However, there appears to be more than the human preoccupation for self-preservation at work when we step outside the cave to scream "STOP".
Perhaps it comes down to nothing more than the distinction between those who want to protect the cave, and those who see a resolution of the conflict outside the cave as an opportunity for everyone to go back outside. But, even those governments whom claim nationalism will triumph 'threats' continue to trade. We continue to connect. We cannot return to the cave as though we don't know what we now do. And so, the friction arises again: protect ourselves, alienate ourselves from our neighbours but equally, and proportionately, seek ways to bypass those borders we're reinforcing, simultaneously.