Since revamping my site and choosing to publish content on a more frequent basis, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the value of social media...actually that's not true...I've spent more time feeling about the value of social media. Seeing folks visit from across the country, sparking conversations and building new understandings and a sense of community with old friends and acquaintances, using posts to organize and test out thoughts and feelings about life stories, questions, news, "art" and whatever else tickles my fancy (apologies for that expression) - all of it has been an exercise in feeling. One of the biggest criticisms of blogs and other forms of social media is that everything they do is "meta," that is, after the fact, or in abstraction to some primary piece of news or information. Because of this initial modus operandi (historically and today a lot of blogs still rely on mainstream news to spark their conversations), the mainstream media like to claim (especially when their own relevance is questioned) to be the lifeblood of the "bloggosphere." They caution that the death of newspapers and traditional media outlets will cause social media to dry-up. I'm not sure that's true.
I think we all have some sense that mainstream news is often vacuous - a race to report every societal "car crash" in the most graphic terms as quickly as possible before finding the next one, first. Ambulance chasers etc. A quick example: Yesterday I was on the bus and one of the local news radio stations had a story about 7 people being found dead in a mobile home in the southern U.S. state of Georgia. No context, nothing. Great. Thank you. My life and understanding of the world has been greatly enriched. Now I know it's possible for 7 people to be found dead in a mobile home, in the state of Georgia. God forbid we should actually connect any dots, attempting to explain why this happened. The same holds true for that recent story about the reality TV show participant who murdered his ex-wife before hanging himself in a hotel room in B.C. Any chance the mainstream media entertained a conversation about mental health, or obsessional jealousy? It's not in their DNA to do so (and while there's an argument that perhaps it doesn't need to be, the fact that their license to operate depends on access to public airwaves points to the possibility that as a society we could ask for something more), but that's also why they're becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Reflection has become an end in itself. Demand is at an all time high. As an end in itself, the primary news on which it is predicated is far less important. Fodder for reflection can come from first person experience, second-hand anecdotes, stories from organizations and businesses dealing directly with social issues and transactions, and various other forms of media and sources of information. We don't lack primary news as a society...it's happening all the time, it's what life is. What we're lacking is the means to reflect, to not just make sense of our world, but to make new meaning that makes the world a better place. That's where the feeling part of social media comes in, and that's where I see its value.
The loss of traditional media reporting should concern us as much as the loss of any other stream of social information, but it's not critical.
I'll try and offer more reflection as I continue to feel my way through this new medium.