The run up to the American election and the subsequent victory for Donald Trump have left many people feeling astonished and dumb founded – myself included. Democracy and freedom of speech are important values; they afford everybody a voice and an equal chance to have their say. However, there are times when freedom of speech offends us, and when democracy does not go our way.
What has been particularly interesting about the American election has been the role that social media has played. Social media is a powerful force that can be used for both good and bad. At its best, it allows for rapid communication of news and events; it can unite people through mutual interests or through shared expressions of solidarity and support. At its worst however, it can promote narcissism, self-interest, intolerance and division. Which face it shows is dependent on who is using it and how.
What is guaranteed however, is that social media isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it is likely that it will become ever more prominent in our society and ever more instrumental therefore in either uniting it or dividing it.
Educating our children to use social media responsibly is essential. Children must learn to become media literate, discerning for themselves what to acknowledge or ignore from the vast array of published content. They should learn to appreciate the effect that their own words may have on others when voiced in a forum where there audience is largely unknown. Above all however, they should have a measured perspective of social media as a whole, ensuring that it does not govern their lives or influence their thinking entirely.