Joined by my fellow apprentices Sam Hutchinson (Smoking Gun PR) and Carly Phillips (Bruntwood), I recently attended a Manchester-based debate labelled ‘Discuss: Social Media Is Evil’. I was offered the opportunity to go, and jumped at the chance to defend social media’s honour, already feeling slightly defensive about the debate’s presumptuous title.
The event consisted of four talks: two for the motion that social media is evil and, on my side, two against the motion. Fighting in our corner was Amanda Coleman, head of communications for Greater Manchester Police and Anna Wilson, of Tangerine PR and The Juice Academy. Opposing their ideas was Amy Binns from the University of Central Lancashire and Dave Edmunson-Bird from Manchester Metropolitan University Business School.
Arriving with anticipation and an interest in finding out what could possibly be evil about social media, we Juice Academicians geared up for a hot debate. Amy Binns started the discussion with a diatribe against social media.
Her main points were that social media made you ‘just a little bit more boring’, and that social media platforms created a ‘village effect’, arguing that, while you gained more friends, you didn’t broaden your horizons. “It means more people who are the same as you,” she claimed. I saw these as fair points, but did that mean social media was really evil? It would take something a lot stronger than that to make me even consider that notion.
Next to speak was Amanda Coleman. Having met a colleague of hers previously in The Juice Academy, I knew that social media had revolutionised the way Greater Manchester Police (GMP) worked, and so I expected her reasoning to be strong. She stated how she was ‘all for a form of communication that broke down barriers, and that, for her, social media was a way to bring a voice to ‘the silent majority’.
Using examples and anecdotes from the Manchester riots, she showed the attendees how social media proved itself as a more-than-useful tool for fighting crime. Through a Flickr page full of CCTV images of looters, strong community social media engagement and tracking the profiles of those who stupidly posted photos of themselves with stolen goods, GMP managed to arrest a large number of offenders in a short amount of time.
Following Amanda was Dave Edmunson-Bird. With over 5,000 tweets a year sent from his account, it seemed strange that he should be against social media. He attacked the matter quite fiercely with statements like ‘social media is where people revel in puerile banter and lewd imagery’ and ‘Facebook is a drug dealer peddling to you’. He even went for the social media lovers with comments, such as ‘you fill your social media feeds with lies, you disgraceful people’! He did put across some interesting, yet angry, points but I was still firmly stuck with my views. I didn’t think the odd lewd image or morsel of banter was evil in any way.
To finish was my Juice Academy tutor and Tangerine PR colleague, Anna Wilson. As Head of Social Media here, I knew her views would match mine and that she would put forward a very strong argument for social media. She made the great point of showing that social media is just a tool that ‘must be harnessed for/to do good’ and that any small evils that may appear on social media sites? are simply the fault of the individual, not of the tool. As Goldie Looking Chain rapped, ”guns don’t kill people, people do”!
Our side certainly seemed to win over the audience, as the motion was beaten hands down.
In my opinion, its capacity to promote worldwide unity and synergy in conversation, the ability to share ideas with the masses, and the opportunity to maintain a constant real-time link with your friends’, families’ and influencers’ lives, far outshines any small evils that may come from the abuse of those privileges. To emphasise my point, you can re-live/observe the debate you didn’t even attend thanks to social media. All you have to do is search the hashtag ‘#socialmediaevil’– if that’s not amazing then I don’t know what is!
Of course, each speaker exaggerated his or her argument to create an exciting debating environment – it’s not all goodies and baddies. A good time was had by all, but I’m still glad our views won over the audience.