“300 million little USAs”
After only Springsteen and U2, Five for Fighting is among my favorite bands. Yet, I have no idea if John Ondrasik had been reading Rosenstiel and Kovach when he added those lines to his song “Slice” a decade ago.
Ondrasik’s ironic commentary on the consequences of the social media phenomenon seemed perfectly in “tune” with the thinking put forth by the authors in Blur, who in their last few chapters seemed wistful for the days before this social media thing made everything so damn complicated.
Ondrasik sees it too. At its best, social media serves a basic human need to connect. We humans are social animals and love nothing more than to feel bonded with those who have brought joy to our lives.
Of course, the “B side” is that social media has muddied the waters of clarity so profoundly that we quickly are becoming “300 million little USAs,” each with his or her own blog of opinions and nothing left to unite us. How ironic: While feeding our desire to bond, social media has left us very little over which to bond.
I do wonder about a culture lacking in unifying realities, including an appreciation for the First Amendment. Because without a shared heritage or values, what happens when an overzealous high school administrator decides that his students have enjoyed enough of the First Amendment? Will those students rally around a unique American liberty or find the principle not worth getting bothered over? And if that happens, will crusader journalism disappear from high school or college programs?
I hope not. Because while I am on the back nine of my career, I still care enough about the profession to make sure it doesn’t become just another “slice” of American pie, destined for quaintness like a Don McLean song.