- March 13, 2015
- Posted by: Victoria Freyre
- Category: Digital Detox
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in’t!”
Since I was born in the middle of the neon soaked, glittery, scrunchy sock 80’s, I mention quite often that I find myself to be part of a generation straddled between two worlds; one full of cords, antennas, and dial-ups and the other with iPhones, Skype, and wireless connections almost everywhere.
Needless to say, while I am adept at navigating my way through the ever-evolving language of the internet, I am still analog enough to continue to find myself shocked not only by the advances of technology, but of the crazy take-over social media has staged upon the world in the last decade.
I joined Twitter in 2009. I won’t sit here and type to you that I was a politically minded person at that time. Danny (fiancé/burger master) has slowly turned me into a news reader, and back in 2009, when something known as The Green Revolution was going down in the streets of Iran, he was engrossed in the coverage and shared what he read about it with me. That is when I first logged on to that weird, 140-character world known as Twitter. I read that students at Tehran University were using this social media platform to post videos, pictures, and live updates of protests against incumbent president Ahmadinejad. My first follows were University students in a school across the world, whom I would never actually meet. I was obsessed with checking their accounts, with the feeling that I was somehow more connected to this foreign plight than I had ever felt before, more than I could possibly feel from an inky, New York Times article that had most likely given me allergies (because I’m a freak and I’m allergic to newspaper ink. What is that?! I mean, come on…).
When Iranian student accounts would go silent, I would check up on them almost every hour to see if they had resurfaced, fearing the worst for my newfound stranger friends. Sometimes this silence was caused by internet cut-offs imposed by the government in an attempt to hush the noise coming from the protestors. But they failed to remember that convenient little feature of tweeting through texts, composing your 140 character thought in a text message and posting it to twitter through your cell service.
In the years that followed, I saw trends and stories, photos and scandals spread across the blue and white platform, and most recently, I’m shocked sideways to say I have witnessed actual international diplomacy taking place on the same source of social media that I use to follow completely fake accounts pretending to be the various characters from Game of Thrones.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock that’s under a rock, I’m sure you’ve caught a whiff of the now infamous Republican letter to Iran that has dominated the news in the last week. Once again, Iran is at the center of another moment where I find myself enraptured by the wonders of the Internet and specifically, social media. Well, apparently, this subject has dominated Twitter‘s trending topics as well, with the hash tag #47Traitors collecting over 200,000 tweets within three days. A buddy hashtag, #47Patriots was also created on the heels of this controversy by those who supported the letter and its signatories. Sadly, however, it hasn’t caught on as well, with only 9,000 tweets by day three.
While a politically driven hash tag taking over trending topics is kind of mind-blowing to me in and of itself, I was especially taken aback by what came next. Senator Tom Cotton took to Twitter and tweeted a copy of the letter in Persian to the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif:
Zarif, an American educated diplomat, had this to say in response:
Not only has this politically polarizing letter drawn attention (social media and otherwise) in America, but it is also sparking a divided debate in Iran. The social media editor of Iran’s Shargh Daily pointed out that in Tehran, either the letter or Zarif’s response dominated the front page news, depending on what side of the political divide each particular newspaper lands on.
In short, I continue to be in awe of the internet and the unseen, unyielding power of social media. Sometimes I find myself staring at my glowing screen in reverent wonder, like a kid walking into Disney World for the very first time. When important political issues are taking over social networks, it gives us a chance to be active in seeking information to keep us better informed as global citizens. As much as I get distracted by what @TyrionLannister has to say, I try to remind myself quite often that we have a choice when drifting through the World Wide Web, and I should use that choice in a balanced and thoughtful way. Digi-tox challenge for the weekend is to follow or like your favorite news source and pledge to read at least one informative article per day.
You’ll be surprised at what’s trending.
In the words of my soon-to-be Father-in-law:
“It’s a whole new world, that Twitter.”
“Digital Detox” is a weekly series written by Victoria Freyre. Every Friday, we explore different ways to disconnect, use the digital world responsibly, and rekindle human connection. To stay current with our latest posts, follow #digitaldetox on our other platforms and check back regularly for updates.