Have you ever wondered what psychological impact social media has on us? More specifically, how does it affect our perspectives and memories? Social media has been around for less than twenty years, yet in that short time it has already reshaped how information is distributed and how we consume it. Even if you’ve never been on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other such sites, they all still directly impact you. Someone who tells you about some news may have easily gotten it from social media sources—even news organizations like CNN do it.
Humans have short memories when it comes to news. For example, did you know that there were 2,500 domestic bombing in the US from 1971 to 1972? That’s right 2,500, with more than 1,800 of them in a single twelve-month period. If social media existed back then, the impact would have been greater because of images, videos, and comments by the people involved.
These events happened at a time when newspaper, radio, and TV were the dominant news sources. Naturally, when there are hundreds of bombings happening in a short period of time, the news is only going to report on the most significant ones. Also, there were stricter deadlines back then. For example, there was a bombing in the shoe department in a major department store in New York City back in 1972 where no one was significantly injured. Was the New York Times really going to redo the front page for that after they already got it ready for print? No, not back then. So we don’t remember it.
Now let’s look at our current times. In a four-day period in October of this year there were twelve mail bombs without any injuries or destruction. More than 75 percent of the US population saw it somewhere. The image of the suspect in the October mail bombing appeared over 700,000 times directly or indirectly on social media. What is the impact? Were these twelve mail bombs more harmful than the 2,500 bombings back in 1971 and 1972? I will not attempt to offer an answer. I will simply use this to illustrate the point that social media can affect what we consider significant, how we think and feel, and even how we recall an incident.
Let’s consider another example—the gruesome beheadings by extremists. The impact of being able to stream these horrific events on YouTube or Facebook can make people feel like this is a new or more recent occurrence. But beheadings date back to the biblical days, and they remained a common execution method for centuries. If there was YouTube in the 1700s, I can guarantee you we’d easily find the evidence of far more beheadings than there are today. In our times, however, we get visualizations and trend analysis in real-time from social media, so all these things, while fewer in number, potentially have a higher impact on our perception and information retention.
So what does this have to do with asset protection? Think of our own bias and how we view an event. Consider what we believe is occurring in the world. More good things or more bad things? What is significant and what isn’t? What truly impacts our daily lives and what doesn’t? And when we are posting something on social media, are we emphasizing what is truly happening on the daily basis? The next time you have a policy review related to apprehensions, interviews and interrogations, or a workplace violence incident, remember the potential impact social media can have. Why not consider how you can use it for spreading what good your teams are doing?