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Social media rules in global change

Monday October 23, 2017 Written by Published in Opinion

How has the wider world suddenly become so polarised?


We’ve become so caught up in this idea of, one camp or idea of thought or another.

Families and friends, defriending each other on Facebook simply because of differing views or ideals, or a particular stance on one political party or the next.

What has happened to the freedom to express my opinion, based on what information I have. What has happened to the idea that you, too, are entitled to form your own opinion, and regardless of the outcome we can still maintain a sense of relationship?

Friends of mine in the US have been much divided with regard to NFL players going on bended knee in protest while their national anthem plays before games. Some have said its unpatriotic and others the expression of their first amendment; the freedom of expression. And then there is Trump!

Brexit in England divided people, homosexual reform divided people’s views, the outcome of the election in New Zealand has divided people, and the idea of dual passports and UN membership for the Cook Islands has divided people, if the conversations I have had this week and comments in the paper are anything to go by.

But the division of ideas, of ideals, of political tendencies or preference should not divide us. It should not be allowed to, and in this world of social media and print, opinions have become more accessible and the ability to promote or demote so much quicker.

Sometimes I think we need some social media etiquette lessons, as we become more accustomed to the readiness of opinion via this very accessible tool. Change is happening whether we like it or not and we must grapple with how we deal with that change, especially when it does not go our way.

As a result of the presidential elections in France and in Canada we have seen change. Younger candidates, less experienced maybe, but more adept with the use of social media have been brought in to positions of leadership.

President Macron and president Trudeau represent a sense for change evident around the globe. Macron has just turned 39 and Trudeau is a mere 45. Austria has elected Sebastian Kurz a 31-year-old politician, to lead their country and Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar has just turned 38. And then there is Jacinda Ardern, who at 36, is New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in more than 150 years and the youngest female leader globally. She is also one of 12 new world leaders under the age of 40.

I was at the Empire Theatre on Tuesday night for the Pacific premiere of the documentary movie, “A Year with Helen.”

Made by New Zealand film-maker Jaylene Preston who was here for the premiere, the movie documents Helen Clark’s bid to become the United Nations’ first woman Secretary General.

In the aftermath of her defeat, she is asked about her use of social media, especially Twitter, to rally her campaign.

She said: “I may have had the millennials’ support, but it was not the millennials that were able to put me into power”.

What these other leaders have been able to work around is the use of social media as a tool to propel them into positions of power. Because the youth vote and that of the millennials, have become ever more important and more mobilised.

The “baby boomer” generation - those born between 1946 and 1965, has led the world. They continue to have a huge impact on global decisions that affect every aspect of our lives.

From climate change, to trade agreements, wars and peace, this generation has had the steering wheel of our destiny firmly in their hands. And now there has begun a move by those born between 1966 and 1999, “Generation X”, to step into that breach. And suddenly, we find ourselves looking at these new characters in the political space.

Some of them are there because they were able to capture the millennial generation and encourage them to vote through the power of social media. Hashtags and soundbites have become the norm for this new echelon of world leaders. Their smartphone, a Segway into their world as never before. And if we haven’t yet figured out that change is slowly ebbing into the way we see the world, interact and become politicised, then we may confine ourselves to the role of spectators in a play we are watching on the world stage as it slowly but surely passes us by.

What we can’t afford to do is ignore this change and neither can we become polarised in its effect on the world we live in. As one mataiapo after the other is newly invested in Rarotonga, we see change. As one Ariki’s reign ends and another is selected we see change. As one world leader steps to the podium, globally we see change.

I have always said I will not become that cantankerous old man who looks at change and says, “Well, back in my day sonny, we never did things that way.” And then I catch myself, sometimes resistant to what I see around me. I then put away my slippers and dressing gown, put on my walking shoes and pick up my smartphone, wondering what’s in my news feed and what’s trending.

I check my Instagram account, post on Twitter, listen to Spotify, read CNN and BBC feeds, respond to my Facebook messages and check my Facebook notifications.

And as I put my phone away, slipping the world back into my pocket, I am assured that in many ways I am connected to the change that is all around me.

I don’t have to agree with it, but I am connected to the change it brings. 

- Thomas Wynne


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