State: Changing democracy as we know it?

Social media and I have have a rocky relationship. Some days, I’ll welcome it with open arms. Finally, a place to talk to people without having to actually be in the same room with them. Other days, human connections trump typed words and emoticons. I would rather eat my food without sharing it to faceless followers.

It’s strange because it seems that social media has almost become a necessity to people in my generation. There hasn’t been a tram ride where I haven’t seen someone scrolling through a social media platform. This is because it has become more than just a place to communicate to your friends, it’s become a place where we can share our opinions. However, most of the social media platforms (such as Facebook), were not created on such a premise. While some people argue that social media has helped new voices in a democracy speak their mind, I argue that it has allowed already active voices become louder.

Only recently has my relationship with social media been rekindled. State, the newest social media platform, connects people via their opinions and was created for opinions to be shared. Their premise is to let those who are not heard, be heard. So not only is it a good thing for my rocky relationship, but for a democratic society as well.

I believe that for a democracy to function, there need to be a number of voices talking about politics. Everyone has the right to their own opinion and it’s unfortunate that sometimes these aren’t heard. State has made it interesting and almost fun to share your opinion, which encourages people to speak up and stand for what they think is right. This way, private agendas can’t be pushed and suddenly the audience is active rather than passive. It should also be noted that State claims not to be affiliated with any governments or companies, leaving it entirely impartial. There was also no advertising on the site, which demonstrates that perhaps there is no agenda. If newspapers or other news sources have a private agenda to be pushed, it’s very likely that society will remain passive and simply accept what is being given to them.

State prides itself on the fact that it’s not a platform that is based on how many ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ you have, it simply allows you to have your opinion. I have been trying it out over the past couple of days and with the myriad of topics available, suddenly I had a lot to say. More specifically, politics is a topic and therefore allows those who want to talk about it, have their say. The only downside to this is that the same people who are overtly active in traditional media could take over the topic. We’ve seen this with other social media sites. In fact, it’s been found that most of the time, social media doesn’t allow for proliferation of ideas, rather the same ideas in a different arena.

So what will it take to make the online arena to feature new and fresh opinions? Is it State? If this is where social media is heading, I think I kind of like it. Whether it be on politics or on nachos, everyone has an opinion and everyone should be heard. State is facilitating a person’s right to free speech.

It’s only a matter of time before more social media platforms similar to State pop up, but I think this is a good thing. There need to be more vehicles for free speech so that society can gain information from a number of sources and then make their own opinion about it. These days, it’s so easy to become engaged in political issues. For example, all you have to do is “#auspol” on Twitter and suddenly you’re part of a greater conversation.

People in my generation are perhaps the least engaged in politics, but I hope that social media starts to play a real role in their own political discussion as we are the future of this country. Let’s actively engage to make State and other platforms like it instruments of change in how we communicate our opinions.

Social media and politics have always had a precarious relationship, but I think this is a step in the positive direction for democracy.


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