Thoughts for a sunny, windy March day in Ireland from an artist, researcher, and global citizen

Are online communities and social media responsible, in part, for the decline of democracy? The impression we are given is that it has helped to democratize and lift up voices  – though this is done with individuals isolated in their physical space and acting, often times, anonymously into the interwebs. The online platform has so inundated our society, that it is almost impossible to discern fact from opinion. It has created the perfect void for people to shout into without a care whether or not people are actually listening or engaging – so long as it gets “hits” or “views”…a simple click to provide credence to the thought expressed – no way to discern the level of engagement of the receiver.

It has sought to replace dialogue that takes place live, person-to-person. In live settings, we are able to take in so much more information regarding the information exchange: facial expression, body language, tone, pitch, volume, inflection, and that unnameable energy ever-present in live exchanges. We are able to sense each participants’ level of engagement and we are able to clarify our points. We are often much more civil because we are representing ourselves in the flesh, rather than a digital persona for whom there are little to no consequences for incivility. It is easy to name-call and insult when your physical person is alone sitting in front of the computer, far from whomever you are insulting.

As “connected” as we are today – I have the sense that, as a community, we have become more disconnected than ever from one another. Look around when you’re out in public – on a train, subway, or in a restaurant or café…how many people are engaging with those around them? How many have their phones or laptops out and are ignoring the people in their company? I’m reminded of a phrase I heard almost 10 years ago now – I honestly can’t remember where – but it was “give those around you a give – be present” …I think we could all work on that more. I think we NEED to work on that more if we are to work through this current crisis in democracy we are experiencing…