The local village idiot is no longer alone
Social media has now been around for more than twenty years, with the biggest platform, Facebook, boasting a user base of 1.7 billion. Considering that, at the time of writing, the world’s population stands at 7.8 billion, attracting roughly 1/7th of these to your platform is quite an achievement.
Many people consider social media to be a blessing. People can connect with each other from all over the world and social networks are key ingredients in business’s marketing strategies.
Social media has been scrutinised more than ever lately. Problems cited include online bullying, kids’ screen time being excessive, and, of course, fake news.
Years ago, if you went to your local pub, you would likely come across what many considered to be the local ‘village idiot’. These outsiders often talked about the end of the world coming that New Year’s Eve, of radio surveillance systems being implanted in your teeth by your dentist, and why the earth is flat (I’ll talk about this more later).
Unfortunately, these people can now contact others who believe the same thing, via the internet - and especially on social media.
In fact, having a niche hobby or a particular interest is no longer unique. Take, for instance, the subject of Channel 4’s recent Breastfeeding my Boyfriend documentary.
The programme delved into the world of women who breastfeed their partners. The two couples featured told of the shock they felt when they realised they weren’t alone in enjoying this, erm, fetish; after posting several videos of themselves online of them carrying out this act, fellow breastfeeding couples got in touch. This started an odd conversation in our office about other fetishes and outlooks on life that are no longer considered taboo. With the advent of the internet, if you search hard enough, you will find a group that appeals to your interests, however ‘weird’.
All you need to do is look at the recent situation with regards the Anti-Vax movement. These people, inoffensive and harmless individually, have gathered in great numbers, and now share fake and potentially harmful content in their attempts to ‘prove they are correct’.
Conspiracy theorists and those who simply want to rebel against popular opinion existed long before the internet, and they were generally disregarded by the rest of the population. Now that their numbers have swelled, however, they’ve become harder to ignore. As more people join their bandwagon, they become more brazen, and their opinions are backed up by the growing mass.
Look at what happened when Donald Trump was in office. Hate crimes in America escalated by a massive 20% - especially against black people, Jewish people, gay men and Latinos. Many blame Trump’s cavalier attitude and views towards race and immigration as the catalyst. After all, if ‘the man in charge thinks like this, it’s fine for me to voice similar opinions and think like this, too’.
This can happen when you have large groups on social media platforms. ‘The group I’m in has ‘X’ number of people, so it’s okay for me to think and feel this way.’ It sets a dangerous precedent that could take years to come back from and it generates a mob rule mentality.
Through social media, all these people, who don’t know each other from Adam, become united by a singular belief. Regardless of what other people state or evidence presented, they steadfastly believe they’re correct (for example, see the storming of Capital Hill).
Cancel culture, which can be a problem in itself, is led by such misguided groups. Companies, not wanting to be cancelled, then begin to bow to these individuals and the problem worsens.
Apparently, the Earth is flat
This one...this must surely be one giant joke. You can literally see the Earth’s horizon when looking out over the ocean from a beach on a clear day. Battleship and artillery gunners using long-range ordinance have to take the curvature of the Earth into consideration when firing long-range projectiles, yet despite years of scientific evidence the Flat Earth movement continues to gain traction. Even Freddie Flintoff has ‘come out’ as a Flat Earther. Once celebrities start to perpetuate such views they, unfortunately, influence their fickle followers. This then results in the lonely village idiot trying to back up his ludicrous argument - and it can all be traced back to social media.
Oh, well, such shenanigans keep the lizard overlords happy...
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