Monday, September 22, 2008

Social Networking and the Demise of Western Society as we Know it

So I am watching oil jump $25 a barrel today AND watching the market tumble again AND hearing that our deficit is going to soar to $15,000,000,000,000 because of these bailouts AND THEN I hear about the gas shortage in the eastern US and how there was a "run" on the gas stations. How does the last one relate?

It makes me wonder if our current financial crisis might be worsened by how interconnected we are. Here is my not so rosy scenario. Much like what happened to United Airlines when some website published an old story that said they were filing for bankruptcy (just a couple of weeks ago) and their stock plummetted, what if there is some misinformation that hits a website- something about banks failing, your money isn't safe etc...This then is texted, instant messaged, facebooked, emailed etc. instantly to family and "friends" everywhere. Then the financial "run" begins. Last one to the bank is a rotten egg.

My comments are not really about the likelihood of this happening, but more about how our interconnectivity (which I enjoy) could also hasten the anxiety, paranoia and even panic that could have a chilling effect. I was talking with a friend of mine in the marketing industry who says that they can tell simply by internet chatter what is happening in the world. There are waves of conversation that you can digitally view by plugging into search engines (or big brother). They say that there are spikes in the conversations where they can tell something happened and that people responded in turn. So, we act in waves, based on circumstances. The waves can be positive or negative. My friend tries to harness these digital waves to raise awareness for good causes. These same waves could be used to spur panic.

My hope (I am an optimist) is that there will be enough level-headed and good natured people to speak truth and hope to counteract fear and panic. And that's really how it is with any tool or communication device etc., they're only as good and/or bad as the ones using them.