Social media’s potential sparkled on International Women’s Dayby Carli Brosseau on Mar. 09, 2012, under social media
The social stream on March 8 was filled with stories of women portrayed not just as mothers or wives, defined primarily by their place in the home. The stories were complex, as was the larger definition of women woven by these stories read together. In the cacophony of our era of self-broadcasting, a simpler narrative could not hold. For that, I think we should all be grateful. As a woman, I certainly am.
With both Happy International Women’s Day and Felicidades Mujeres among Twitter’s top trends, millions of stories were shared online, eliciting reactions that often added further nuance. Through social sharing, the conversation widens, reaching people who perhaps had never before entertained a certain position or hadn’t considered it deeply enough to compare it to their own views and respond.
We now each have millions of nuggets of information fed to us daily that, depending on our information consumption approach, can narrow or broaden our worldview. We are what we eat, in literature as in food. As Chimamanda Adichie beautifully illustrates in the TED video “The Danger of a Single Story,” a young Nigerian writer who has only read British and American children’s books will populate her own stories with blue-eyed children playing in the snow.
Adichie argues for a multi-threaded narrative that allows us to see stereotypes and move beyond them to have a fuller emotional response, a reaction beyond pity, for example. “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete,” Adichie says. “It robs people of dignity.” While she does not mention social media, it struck me that she is advocating the kind of narrative that social media, especially when used with curiosity and the technological tools to facilitate curation, has made easier for us to compose.
One technological forum that capitalizes on this potential is Women on the Verge, founded by Tucsonan Ana Lewis. It reaches some 10,000 people through social media and facilitates conversations primarily among women about personal experience, self-improvement and professional advancement. It is about being supportive and nuanced and breaking stereotypes, and it has grown wildly in popularity. “It showcases how true this concept is — how ready we are for it,” Lewis said.
Also giving me hope is the recent viral sharing of the #KONY2012 video. There are certainly problems with the video — significantly, its lack of nuance — but the bright spot is that tens of millions of people watched a half-hour video about a devastating African war that has long been ignored outside of its geographical zone of suffering. With a click, millions of people were invited to care, and they did, at least enough to pass on the video.
Admittedly, millions of people watching a video does not stop a war. But it could add aspects to the narrative. It could begin a conversation. Through the conversation could grow empathy, the baseline for better human interaction in all of its forums.