At a time like this, when the country is on the brink of a first-ever default, social media -- and that means all of you! -- doesn't appear to be doing all that it could. That is, if you believe - no matter which side of the political fence you sit on -- that watching your elected officials act like preschoolers in a time of financial crisis is just a tad disheartening.
If you've read the headlines about what social media has done -- and can do -- in other instances, you'd expect some, or all, of the following to be going on right now. Wouldn't you?
1. A meet-up or two scheduled for the Mall this weekend in Washington.
2. A few more angry hashtags.
3. Mass tweets aimed specifically at the elected officials who are involved in this whole mess, publicly shaming them into action.
4. A planned resistance effort to things like paying taxes.
Instead, what do we have so far? Beyond Jarvis' hashtag, which, as of this morning, has slowed down to a trickle of retweets, not much in terms of using social media to organize what appears to be mass public outrage. Instead, my tweet stream runs on about the same as ever. A quick look right now shows we are still much more interested in the Dunkin' Donuts IPO and Google+ than we are in our country's credit rating. Doughnuts are tasty, but ... really?
Indeed, some news reports about citizen outrage read like we're stuck in a time warp where the collective voice - rather than something that can be summoned rapidly, efficiently, and with immense scale - is party-lining like it's 1959. Here's what I mean: after President Obama urged us, in a primetime speech on good ol' broadcast TV, to call our Congressman, the phones at the Capitol rang "off the hook."
Well, good, I guess. But where's the collectivism in that? It's one thing to call your Congressman; but it's far more powerful to organize the people trying to call in all around you. I shouldn't have to remind anyone reading this column about what social media did for the uprising in Egypt.
Of course, the Congressional Web site was jammed too -- and while I'd love to see a report about how much traffic surged to house.gov yesterday, when I finally got through and was able to write to my Congresswoman, the whole exercise felt pretty pathetic. There I was, a solitary person sitting at her keyboard, writing an email that would probably never be read. Surely, in this day and age, I could do something more powerful than that. We all could.
I'm scratching my head about where this inertia comes from. Debt ceiling fatigue? Despair? Denial? Or maybe, like me, you're just trying to focus on the things you can control, like how well you do your job, or overseeing your kids' morning application of sunscreen. Still, I'm disappointed. And you should be, too.