This post is not about the tragedy that happened at Parkland or the gun safety debate that has been re-energized by it. Those are both worthy topics but I’m not opining on them today.
I do hope that this tragedy, among so many like it, will result in meaningful changes in our society in terms of how we protect our children in school and also how we allow responsible and healthy people to own and secure their weapons.
What I am going to opine on is how Parkland is re-shaping the debate about how social media and technology more broadly is impacting our culture, our collective conversations, and our politics.
In the beginning, the tech sector believed, and told everyone, that connecting the world via technology was going to be great, a technological utopia as it were.
That, of course, turned out not to be true and what we have are both vast improvements (truly global real time communications that everyone can tap into) and equally vast problems (you can’t believe and can’t trust anything you read on the Internet).
It is the classic good news/bad news situation.
In the past few years, but most notably last year, the discussion of this topic has focused on the bad side of these changes. Fake news, hacked systems, bots, ad systems gone haywire, and so on and so forth. We collectively lost trust in social media and technology and became angry about it.
Then comes Parkland. These amazing brave and vocal young adults, victims, with the same tools in their hands.
And we see, again, the good side.
The promise of Parkland, for me, is that this technology we have built and use every day can be an impactful tool for real people with real things to say to get their words out, and for the rest of us to see them, amplify them, discuss them, debate them, and understand them.
I feel the pendulum on this issue swinging back to center, where it belongs, and I am very encouraged by that.