On February 8, 1996, at the U.S. Library of Congress, Bill Clinton, as the U.S. President, signed the telecommunications law that pretty much formally kicked off the "information superhighway" that acknowledged the growing importance of the internet. Watching on was his deputy, Al Gore Jr. Access to information for all was the Utopian goal.
Nearly a decade after that, the New York Times journalist, Thomas Friedman wrote a bestselling book on how the world had, as it were, become flat. He highlighted the phenomenon of companies leveraging on the internet to improve productivity and delivery of goods and services to everyone.
About the same time as when Friedman was busily jotting down the material for his book, young Mark Zuckerberg and his friends were putting together the greatest disruptive internet application of all, Facebook. Thus, came the dawn of the awesome and awful social media. Eventually, Twitter was also birthed as social media for the word-challenged individual.
Put in that very brief context, we can observe the many parallel timelines of the evolution of the information superhighway that Clinton and Gore extolled. Many, many good things have come from the information highway since 1996.
I am arguing that the jury is still out on the value of social media.
Two decades on from 1996, the greatest democracy on earth, with a population numbering just under 300 million citizens and, having one of the wealthiest societies ever imagined, the United States of America elected Donald Trump, an outsider of sorts from the mainstream of political leadership in the U.S.
The observation I am offering and, this applies to all current affairs and political matters throughout the world today, is that when Friedman wrote about the world being flat, he wasn't thinking about the Flat World thinkers. But in his use of the the phrase, "The world is flat", Friedman had actually inadvertently put the finger on a basal feature of the information highway; social media.
Democratising the information superhighway has led to the creation of social media that has begat people receiving fake news and forwarding it to family and friends and, thus, has created a global culture of indolence. Nobody cares if news or information is fake. If you forward it to your friend, your friend will forward it on.
This era of social media is the mischievious writer of chain letter's greatest and wettest of all wet dreams.