What does it mean to speak publicly about issues you care about?
If you tweet a link to an article you finding interesting, is that an implicit endorsement?
If I “like” your status update or change my profile picture to a red equal sign, am I a better friend or advocate?
What is the “like” currency and how is it contributing to the economy of change in our society?
Are we all a part of a movement or is the world just getting smaller and we’ve found a new place to put our trash?
What is happening to all the information we’re putting into social spaces? If twitter feeds are a library cataloging everything from congressional politics to scientific theory, is it sacrilege to post what you ate for breakfast? As curators in the age of information, what is our responsibility as architects of truth and reason? Where is the reasonable-check to make sure what we are creating is useful or even mildly entertaining? Are we becoming garbage disposals of recycled ideas, rapid consumers of information that won’t penetrate beyond the limits of the screens we view it on, only to forward the undigested remains along to our “friends”?
How does one go about changing the world anyway? Do you have to own what you feel in a forum of public opinion to be a genuine advocate? Do I have to bleed alongside my comrades in war-torn countries to be a kindred ally, or can I just re-tweet the rally cry? Is it safer to express controversial opinions online or more cowardly? By sharing our intimate thoughts and passions, are we building collective memories or creating new generations of voyeurs? Can social media really bring about social justice?
Should physicians speak publicly about the ways education, housing, environment, and local politics affects their patient’s health? If they do, will it matter?
Social media is the new land of opportunity, democratizing information and offering the promise of connection and synergy – where our collective vision for the future can transcend our individual ability to make it realized. But I am beginning to understand that my words here (in the internet cosmos) mean nothing if I don’t live them here (where I actually live and work and play). Perhaps if we hold ourselves to that standard of engagement as we share our worlds online, the weight of our words really will change the world. As it turns out, the public voice is nothing without public action.