“When did we start accepting as hard news sources bloggers, anonymous bloggers especially?” – Sarah Palin

Social media has exploded in the last few years. I remember the early days of the internet (yes, I am one of the last to remember life BEFORE the internet!) where we’d go into random chat rooms and tease unsuspecting computer nerds or look up macaroni cheese recipes just to see how the whole thing really worked. I may have also been one of the first to have a boyfriend that I met online. Now everyone and their 2 year old, or in the case of a friend of mine their unborn-at-the-time son, can have a blog, a LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace profile, a Twitter account… I myself am guilty of having all five (though no more MySpace). And yes, I note the irony of blogging about social media. But can it, like video games once were, be blamed for all the evil in the world?

Sarah Palin was happily huntin’ and fishin’ just north of here when John McCain plucked her from obscurity and thrust her into the public eye. But was it the fault of bloggers that she came across as a “pit bull with lipstick” [to paraphrase a Palinism]? I would argue she did it to herself, by being… herself.

In a recent article, Palin complains that Caroline Kennedy (Obama’s likely choice for New York senator and only surviving child of JFK) is getting the “kid glove” treatment by media while she was ruthlessly hosed. Along with CBS’s Katie Couric and SNL’s Tina Fey, she blames new media and bloggers especially for all the scrutiny she faced. Yes, bloggers like Perez Hilton have conquered the mainstream media and new waves of interest have been created by the vastness of Web 2.0 (watch out, did you know there is a Web 3.0 coming? Yes! Be still my beating mouse!), but SNL has been around for nearly 35 years and Katie Couric for over 50. And how much influence do blogs and bloggers really have?

The communication process is a two-way affair. Sender – message – receiver. I won’t bore you with COMM101, but suffice to say someone is sending a message and someone is receiving it, no matter the medium. What Web 2.0 allows, that traditional media doesn’t, is a platform for anyone and everyone to have their say, rather than just a powerful, literate elite beaming messages ‘down’ to the public. Sometimes it can be an unfortunate thing considering how much drivel is out there, but it can also be a powerful instrument of change, and of getting one’s voice out there. Albeit into the millions of bits and bytes.

I am not saying that a Facebook group is going to change the world, but it can sure as hell try. I have some silly African Safari application that has already raised $1000 for buying mosquito nets to help prevent malaria. Not bad for just adding an app and sending someone a virtual leopard! I am a member of Avaaz.org that has already sent some powerful messages to big names around the world; and all I have do to sign one of their petitions is to plug in my email address.

So like anything, you have to sift through the crap to find the cream, because it doesn’t always float on top, and if you don’t like what you see/hear/read, why not start a blog yourself, Sarah?