Someone is murdered with a hammer. Do we ban hammers? No, we can’t because there’s these things called nails and these things called houses that shelter us, so we kind of need hammers to be available.
Someone is run over by a train. Do we ban trains? Sorry, we can’t. Public transport must continue apace and we can only put up more safety rails and signs. And avoid eye contact.
There are riots in London. British PM David Cameron mutters about banning social media. [Insert sigh here].
Riots have been happening for centuries, but apparently if we shut down Facebook and Twitter, everything’s going to be okay and we can go back to watching re-runs of The Bill where DI Meadows ensures that all is calm at Sunhill.
Never mind that the actual London Fire Brigade uses Twitter and Facebook. Emergency services around the world (most obviously here in Queensland during the floods) are using social media to help their work. In the aftermath of the riots, London Fire posted the following:
It was in response to posts like this:
It’s now also well known that UK residents used social media to organise clean-ups, through accounts like Riot Clean Up and tweets like this:
In fact, social media has been used to reassure and support people, with accounts like this too from a police superintendent.
The London Metro Police is using FlickR as a functional, crimestopping tool, to house mugshots of suspected looters, using CCTV footage.
So why lash out at social media?
It’s because social media always has incited passion, and much of this passion is anti-social media angst from those who have never bloody used social media! They may know that their grandchildren “spend too much time on Facebook” and that somebody called Ashton Cooper has millions of followers on some platform called Twitter.
They see people reading the news or exchanging information over smartphones at cafes or pedestrian crossings, and it makes steam come out of their ears because they weren’t the ones who invented it. They’re quite happy with their broadsheets and their cups of tea – no Chai Latte for them please – and what’s wrong with the world the way it is anyway?