Social Media as a Catalyst for Change

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Technology. Society would be at a loss without it. Trains and planes would stop running, streetlights would go out, and cities would shut down. In fact, the entire world would come to a grinding halt. The lives of everyday people are intrinsically and irrevocably intertwined with technology, and for good reason. Technology has allowed humankind to progress. Through a sort of coevolution, humans and technology have helped each other to advance and become what they are today. As a society, humankind has developed from using sharpened sticks as weapons of war to AK-47s, and from printing presses as ways to spread news to Facebook and Twitter. Despite these huge advancements, humans have not yet progressed as far as they can. It is human nature to constantly push the limits of what is possible, so progress is inevitable, but limits could not be pushed as far as fast if technology did not reveal what human senses and determination are incapable of discovering. The idea of technology, though, is broad and multifaceted, and social media is just one area. Just like other forms of technology, social media has developed throughout history, growing increasingly faster and wide reaching. From inventions such as the six-hundred-year-old printing press to the Facebook and Twitter of today, media-based technology has never wavered in its role of expediting communication and opening doors. Social media is the catalyst that society needs in order to move forward. History is riddled with almost constant rebellion and change. Humans are simply not content with standing still, but they alone are incapable of achieving change at the rate and the scale at which is desired. This shortcoming forces them to turn to tools, specifically those stemming from media-based technology. However, technology itself does not cause change. Something that is not a living and breathing entity, that is not human, cannot act by itself in creating progress. Technology merely provides a path of least resistance through which change, pushed forward by men and women, can travel. Says Fernand Braudel in Capitalism and Material Life, “Technology is only an instrument and man does not always know how to use it” (Braudel 274). But when people do know how to use it, great things can happen. This has been true throughout history. Take, for instance, the printing press. Invented in the 15th century, it revolutionized the production of texts and ushered in an age of drastic transformations. This begs the question of what if. What if the printing press had not been invented? One of the first things that comes to mind is a world without public access to the written word, and that would not be incorrect, but very few people would imagine a society where the Catholic Church had a near chokehold on the lives of ordinary people, where science was completely stifled in favor of the worship of an all-powerful God, and where illiteracy was the status quo. With the invention of the printing press came an era of great change that swept across Europe. There was the Protestant Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment. All of these movements changed not just Europe, but the world in myriad different ways. The lower classes were able to see the foolishness of ideas such as the “Divine Right” to rule and the ability to buy one’s place in heaven (Oberman). Knowledge is most definitely power, and this information gave them a chance to rise. And yet, this great change would not have been possible without the printing press. The printing press spread ideas and words throughout Europe, giving people more access to the truth and, in essence, destroying the ignorance that the Catholic Church had used as a weapon until that point. Unable to control what was known and who knew it crippled the Catholic Church, and their hold on the world gradually diminished. To be fair, a world controlled by a Catholic theocracy is very unlikely, but this event still reflects how technology acts...
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