The Rising Power of Social Media, the Danger of the 'Single Stroy'

That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise. –Chimamanda Adichie

In recent years, many of our beliefs, thoughts, knowledge and concepts regarding different topics have been based on data and information that we receive from social media. You may think that social media is showing reality “as it is,” or you may think that it is biased. You can change the narrative according to the way that you write the headline, or frame the picture.

Either way, social media is undeniably an important vehicle in the fast-paced delivery of news and information today. We have to learn and understand the nuances of how it works.

Israel, a country always under discussion and often put in the spotlight, needs to find a way to represent the reality in Israel and show the world the challenges that we, as Israelis, face. That is not an easy task.

In November, we talked about “Building Bridges” in our programs. These bridges are also affected by media and social media. For example, the movie that we showed Barriers, showed a checkpoint, which controlled the movement of Palestinians who wanted to enter Israel to work. Simultaneously, the checkpoint prevented unauthorized and potentially harmful people from getting inside Israel. We could see the way that the camera presented the checkpoint situation in a very specific way and showed a specific interpretation. That is a way to tell a single story and ignore the other stories of the situation.

When I was a deputy commander in the IDF, I also found myself in a similar situation. My regiment was stationed in Hebron, and while guarding the area of Qiryat Arba we got a call to go to an area just near the Israeli settlement of an Arab village. When my Jeep arrived at the call we found ourselves at a stone-throwing fight between Jews and Arabs who lived there. In order to calm the situation, my soldiers and I ran into the middle of the fight and divided the group. That stopped the stone throwing. There was a cameraman from an organization named Betzelem who filmed everything that was going on. I approached him and asked, “Why are you filming this? Can’t you see that part of the reason that this situation didn’t stop is because of your filming it?” The cameraman continued to film. A few days later, I learned that this footage became part of a video clip that shows the military activity in the area as violent and inhumane. You can search “Soldiers prevent filming” on YouTube to find it.

This is one example of how reality can be manipulated. I certainly didn’t use violence, and while other soldiers in the video may have indeed acted violently, to be a part of this kind of video is not something that I’m proud of. However, I find it important to tell this story because it can help people open their minds and consider that maybe not everything we see is what it appears to be.

Social media certainly has its advantages. It is fast and can reach a large audience. But we as its audience should use our “critic glasses” and think: “Do we get the full story of what we are seeing in this picture?” Usually, there is more than one story, and we should aspire to be curious and learn more about the different stories that are out there.


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