The 2010s: Do I Follow You?

by: Kirsten Han/

One year into this decade, it is difficult to tell who will rise to be the one who will define the 2010s. Will there even be such a person?

I’m sure there will be certain figures and moments that will stand out. Who can forget the speed with which fans accumulated on Nicole Seah’s Facebook page during the General Elections? Who can “unhear” the Fun Pack Song? Can anyone ever look at a Kate Spade bag in the same way ever again? Will we ever stop shouting, “kee chiu!” at each other from now on?

Yet all these moments would not have unfolded in quite the same way if not for one thing: social media. Which is why I am personally inclined to believe that when we look back, we will see the 2010s as the decade where new media swept in and changed the way things worked… forever. (Wah, very drama hor!)

Where in the past the media was often one-way, with news anchors and newspapers telling and us listening, social media platforms such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter (and now Google+) have added a layer of interactivity that has finally allowed us to talk back. No longer are we content to hear what the mainstream media (and the government) thinks – we want them to hear what we think too.

Such a shift has begun to place more emphasis on the crowd rather than the individual. With people able to get in touch – even from halfway across the world – and discussions  (sometimes arguments) sprouting up in every comments thread, every blog post and every forum on the World Wide Web, it is becoming harder and harder for just one voice to dominate any public discourse. During the GE 2011, social media was even credited as the force that made our mainstream media work harder to balance out its political coverage.

With these new developments, the old rules no longer apply. How does one censor the Internet, when there is simply too much content to control? How does one ban a video, when it would simply sprout up from a dozen of other anonymous accounts within 24 hours? How does one make sure that information is skewed in one’s favour, when the public will simply scornfully tweet, “NPNT! (NO PIC NO TALK!)”

Before social media, it was difficult to judge the general mindset of a large number of people (unless you had the resources to do a large-scale survey). It was easy to feel alone and isolated with one’s views. But once Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress and Google exploded onto the scene, it was suddenly possible to see, almost instantaneously, what a whole bunch of other people thought.

Seeing one person express his or her view gives another more courage to express theirs as well. Seeing many people clicking “attending” on a Facebook events page of a protest makes others more likely to join in as well. The pro-democracy revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have often been heralded as “social media revolutions”. This might a little over-eager, but one cannot deny that social media has had some impact.

After all, people feel strength in numbers, and nothing does “numbers” like social media.

This article is part of a series where contributors were asked for their personal take on who shaped the decades. This writer feels that this decade will shift the focus from the individuals to the masses.

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