1. We live in a culture of fear
2. The attention economy provides fertile ground for the culture of fear
3. Social media is magnifying the attention economy”
“Radical transparency presumes that outing people will combat fear and increase tolerance. But does it? Are marginalised people better off as a group when they are exposed? I genuinely don’t know the answer to this. But my hunch is that things aren’t working out the way it was intended.
Many gay activists look to the past 50 years and argue that LGBT acceptance continues to increase alongside the rise of highly visible LGBT-identified people. But historian George Chauncey is quick to highlight that gay culture pre-WWII was much more vibrant and open than what was available in the 1970s, the supposed liberating years for the gay community. In fact, the fears that rose after prohibition are what drove the oppression of gay society. In Germany, the 1920s were an extraordinarily gay time. In all senses of the word. Fear crushed that. “To use the modern idiom,” Chauncey writes, “the state built a closet in the 1930s and forced gay people to hide in it.” What happened?
Social forces are not linear. There’s no universal narrative of “progress” where we continue to march forward to ever-increasing levels of enlightenment. There are even radically divergent ideas of what constitutes progress and enlightenment in the first place.
Tolerance is a value that I am completely committed to. But it is often espoused as though it is neutral. It is not. The fact is that people tolerate certain things and not others – and this tolerance changes depending on who they’re with, what the issues are, what the risks are of being tolerant. Our decisions about what is acceptable to tolerate stem from our values and our beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. There are certainly people who embrace difference when they’re exposed to it, but there are also people who fear it.
Exposure to new people doesn’t automatically produce tolerance. When explorers traversed the earth looking for opportunity, they pillaged and plundered even before they began colonising. Fear ruled the seas. And let’s be honest, exposure to other people during great explorations did not magically produce tolerance. It bred anger, distrust and hatred.
Through networked technologies, the average person is exposed to more things today than ever before in history. People can get a window into the lives of others halfway around the world. Onlookers may not understand what strangers are saying nor may they be sharing that much publicly, but the internet enables more access to more people than even the greatest explorers in history ever had. But what does someone make of this opportunity? Are people really looking around to understand difference? Or are they more committed to finding similarity and avoiding people who aren’t like them?
The internet makes visible things that we want to see, but it also makes visible things that we don’t want to see. It exposes us to people who are different. And this is the source of a great amount of fear.”
full article by Danah Boyd: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/21/digital-era-society-social-media