Peace Scholar Post: Social Media – a Tool for Democracy or for Clutter?

This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2014 Peace Scholars as they experience their summer program in Norway. This post was written by Andrew Larsen from Pacific Lutheran University.

The Peace Scholars have been asked to compose blog posts about our experiences here in Norway at the International Summer School. Some of the previous bloggers have focused on how movement is crucial in understanding our place in the world and and in understanding how society is working around us. Steinar Bryn, senior advisor at the Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue, encourages us to ask questions. And we have had a lot of practice doing this recently as we have been meeting many new people and developing relationships. But what about the concept of the blog itself? What does this venue hope to achieve? I am especially inspired to analyze the blogging of the Peace Scholars in light of our recent visit to the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo. One of the exhibits there is about social media’s impact on democracy. In this blog post I hope to challenge myself and the readers of this post to think about our own social media use – from Peace Scholar blog posts to Instagram photos of our delicious meal – the impact of social media can be seen throughout the world.

One of Alfred Nobel’s requirements for the Peace Prize was to help foster a global community. Today, around 2.7 billion people on this planet are connected to the internet. With roughly 1/5 of the world’s internet use dedicated to social media, this decade has demonstrated that a global community is developing through social media outlets. But what impact does this World Wide Web of social media users have? The Nobel Peace Center poses the question: “Can social media lead to more democracy?” Do these Peace Scholar blog posts add to the discussion around the constant efforts of building peace? Or do our contributions on social media just add to the clutter of the already noisy world? I believe that social media has a powerful role in our world. From the Nobel Peace Center’s #BeDemocracy hashtag to the well-known impacts social media had on the Arab Spring, people are letting their voices and stories be heard. Mr. Bryn emphasized how just listening to stories is a key part of the dialogue process – perhaps social media is just one more way we can listen to these stories. But with that being said, I do end this blog with a question that was posed on a display in the Nobel Peace Center, “What does it take for social media to make you act?” 

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