Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was one of the longest ruling dictators in modern history. A ruthless Secret Police, huge military, billions of dollars in cash and the might of the US Military and Diplomatic power allowed Hosni Mubarak to suppress his people for 32 years. But then a revolution was enabled by new technology that nothing could stop.
In a mere 11 days Hosni Mubarak was ousted. The revolution was called Social Media
Delhi had a mild earthquake on the 5th of March at 1.11.00 pm. By 1.12 pm Twitter was trending all over India with news of the Earthquake. TV news Channels did not get on the act till 11.20 pm asking for twitter feeds, by which time it was no longer news. By the time their OB vans got to the sites and started to broadcast it was 1.30 pm. Newspapers not till the next day.
Twitter is the biggest News Channel in the world now. Social Media is revolutionising the way we perceive the world. It does not need to pay huge license or broadcast fees. It does not need huge corporate overheads. It does not need an Editorial. It does not need need an anchor.
Social Media takes away the power of the Gatekeepers, be they Editorial or the Censor. Or the Government. It takes away the Power (and prejudices) of the Media from a few Gatekeepers that decide what content gets distributed, who produces it, and how it gets distributed. As technology allows contents creators and consumers to share ideas and content with each other, Social Media puts decisions firmly in the hands of the Community.
Social Media has created a new word. Crowdsourcing . News and opinion is crowd sourced. As millions of people talk (or tweet) between themselves incessantly, billions of arguments and counter arguments going back and forth, a crowdsourced opinion and crowdsourced ideas emerges. Ideas rise like waves in a sea, most die, but the ones that capture a million or billion collective imaginations, become Tsunami’s. Its the most democratic exploration and explosion of ideas we have seen.
Like ideas, Social Media will give rise to Communities that will rise and fall around ideas, while some will grow massively. No longer limited by Geography or language, fiercely loyal communities that will go beyond commitment to Nation States and form around ideals.
Thats true Democracy.
As Newspaper and Media empires fade, ‘Gatekeepers’ as we know them, are being replaced by Platformers that enable communities to share ideas, thoughts, knowledge, news, between themselves at an unprecedented speeds, letting them transact and exchange even real goods and services between themselves. Communities will now reject Gate Keepers that thrive on a system that tries to control that flow.
Is it a good thing ? Of course it is. We have seen Gatekeepers survive by throttling or choking the system for their own profit on the theory that they are providing a service. Undeniably many many do bring within Gatekeeping good viewpoints. Great and responsible editorials. But they cannot now replace the euphoria of free exchange of thought and ideas. Free exchange of information. Free exchange of even education. The singular editorial will be replaced by the crowdsourced one.
Is this chaos and anarchy ?
As media companies, educational institutions and Governments cry out in panic as they try and stem the growth of a free and dominant Social Media ? Experience has shown it is neither. Not unless Hosni Mubarak saw the Arab spring as anarchic and chaotic. As Social Media is growing at an unprecedented pace the assumption that free exchange of thought and ideas is anarchic and chaotic is proving to be untrue.
The Khan Academy, with over 3000 Video’s on youtube is revolutionising education in Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Health Sciences, and a host of other relevant topics. Started by a young Bangladeshi graduate of MIT trying to teach his niece in Bangladesh mathematics through home made video’s on Youtube , it is mushrooming into the greatest educational revolution of all time. And its free ! The future of education is on Social Media. No Land Grabs in the name of Institutes of learnings. No capitation fees from the Gatekeepers of Education. No political control over what should be or what should not be included in text books. And hey ! its fun.
There is no bit of information, no source of information, no idea, no opinion, no idea that is not available through Social Media. People say that we are unable as individuals to disseminate good information and opinion from bad. That’s an insult. I follow people on twitter who lead me to the best written articles, the most interesting and provocative ideas written. And most of them do not appear in Magazines. They appear in Blogs written by brilliant minds. And those that follow me on twitter do the same. I have never had a selection process as exciting informative and provocative as Social Media.
Social Media is not an alternative. Social Media is a new way to exist. It is a new perception of the world as we know it, and it affects almost every aspects of our lives. It is the greatest challenge to the structures we have built and got used to, but it is also the greatest business opportunity ever presented if embraced.
In 7 years Facebook built a valuation of $ 100 billion as a Social Media platform. Other Social Media companies are building up even faster. In this decade we will see more Social Media companies that will 10x Facebook valuations in a shorter space of time. What is happening? Are Social Media companies becoming the most valuable companies in the world, or is Social Media making valuations meaningless now. Has Social Media completely skewed the Old World so we are forced to re look at how we measure the world around us?
Our expectations of normal behaviour is that productive young people (college educated, early 20’s, highly employable and responsible) would aspire to make a good living, take holidays, have healthy bank accounts and investments, buy bigger homes etc. So they can contribute to mortgages, life insurances, taxes, consumption etc. But what are many of them doing spending 7/8 hours of productive time on a completely non productive activity on Facebook? Is Social Media provoking far greater, far more fundamental changes in our behaviour patterns?
I think they are. I call it the new ‘influence economy’. Where individuals see ever increasing communities they belong to as their ‘real estate’, and their own circle of influence within that community their wealth. And are willing to trade traditional forms of wealth for spending hours in front of a computer screen increasing their influence within their chosen community. The valuation of Facebook also reflects that new ‘influence economy’.
The world is no longer flat or vertical. Its no longer about the vertical relationships between producer and consumer. It is no longer top down. Social Media is making it round. Circular. The word Consumer is being replaced by the word Community.
And as loyalties move away from geographical boundaries to amorphous communities that form around ideas, are we going to see the fall of Nation States and rise of Blogistan ?