Is ‘Social Tweeting’ A Waste of Time?
Indonesia never runs out of drama. From religious intolerance to Lady Gaga, we have our share of weird episodes in this young democracy. And with all these hoopla, we have our “Tweeting Middle Class” who always have something to say on the matter. Including me!
Now, I’ve seen cynical voices about these Indonesian tweets, basically saying that tweeting alone is useless. It is only intellectual, digital masturbation that accomplishes nothing. These voices usually say that real action must be “offline”. That only “real” action in the physical sense gets things done. Hence, their mocking at Indonesians who are only “loud” on Twitter land.
I agree with them. But not completely.
I agree that change must happen through action. Well, it is kind of obvious, isn’t it? But I disagree that all the loud chirping over social issues on Twitter means completely nothing, and can be easily dismissed as a waste of time of the middle class.
(my tweets over Syahrini or Bubu are OF COURSE effective time waster, that’s why you must put things in the context :D)
Here’s why I disagree with the cynics, why I welcome all the ‘social tweeting’ in positive light. And it begins with….Leonardo DiCaprio.
If you have seen ‘Inception’, you may remember a quote from Leo’s character, Cobb. “What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.” And hence his character’s skill to “plant ideas” in people’s dreams.
And this is how I see the value of Twitter. Our thumbs may not eradicate corruption, intolerance, bigotry, discrimination, persecution, bullying, anf all other social problems over night. But our thumbs can help spread IDEAS. Like the movie Inception, Twitter can help spread ideas, plant them into people’s minds. Ideas of humanity, of kindness, of tolerance, of compassion, of friendship. And this, is a great beginning, even if it does not yet take place in “the real world”.
For example, in the case of religious persecution, cynics have lamented over the “silent moderate majority”, those who claim to oppose violence over minority groups, yet seem to fail to stand up and take action. The cynics will disregard their digital protests on Twitter, because according to them tweets cannot stop the victims’ pain, blood, and tears.
True. But this is where I take the positive path. I still welcome people’s digital protests positively, because at the very least, they show “an idea”; that not everyone approves of thuggery and oppresion, that they believe minorities should be protected, and that nobody should be persecuted because of their different beliefs. These are powerful ideas. And through Twitter, these ideas can travel, infect other minds, or at least create a discourse among the questioning minds. Granted, the evil ALSO use the same platform, and they also try to spread their own evil ideology and teachings. And this is where the battle of ideas happens – and must keep happening. If the “silent moderate” is also silent on social media, then we are truly doomed.
Today, who would argue the power of books to change history? There are historic books and writings that contain ideas so powerful that they changed the course of history. The abolition of slavery in the US is often credited to a novel (Uncle Tom’s Cabin). And there are countless other examples where books contain powerful ideas that spread into the minds of millions (although unfortunately, Hitler’s Mein Kampf is also included). Now, we wouldn’t say that those writers “only write and accomplish nothing”, would we? Many powerful writers only put their ideas in their books, but over time, the ideas became stronger, and then became action.
And this is where I see the shared commonality between books and social media. I am not saying that Twitter is equal to books, but both have the ability to contain and spread ideas. The difference is only the physical manifestation (paper and digital).
So that’s the reason why I am not cynical about people’s “social tweeting”. It is not the end of society’s problems of course, but it surely is a beginning. Like the famous line quoted in ‘V for Vendetta’: “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea”. And I keep my faith in noble ideas.