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Social Media and Society


Problem Statement

Social media has been defined as any online means of communicating to large audiences. Social media are used for various purposes including communication, entertainment and learning among many other uses. The most popular social media include; social networking sites, video sharing, blogs, wikis and livecasting (Pernisco, N. 2010). Social media has gained prevalence across the world in the last 10 years. Today, there are over 2 billion social media users in the world (Senger, D. 2010). Despite the rapid spread of social media within the society, there have been little deliberations concerning the impact of these social media on the society. This paper explores some of the impacts that social media has on the society.


 Literature Review/ Discussion

Growth of Social Media

The increased prevalence of social media is largely attributed to rapid development in the technology sector. Internet has become readily available thanks to broadband and other technology.  Previously, people had limited access to social media because internet connectivity was limited. However, the situation has changed within the last decade. A significant part of the global population has access to the internet. Computing devices have also become cheap and readily available (Senger, D. 2010). People need computing devices in order to get access to the internet. Access to these devices was a significant barrier to internet connectivity. However, advancement in technology has enabled people to access the internet over their mobile phones and other least expensive devices. Growth of social media has led to several developments. Increased connectivity and interaction are among this development. Social media has created giant networks that connect hundreds of people. Another development is the growth of user generated content. Social media allow users to generate and share their own content. This has developments have impacted the society in both positive and negative ways.


 Positive Impact

Social media has assisted users to explore personal networks, as well as establish new connections and relationships (Jalil S, Jalil K, & Latiff A, 2010). A person needs to interact with others in order to advance his personal, professional or any other goals. Social media has given people the power to exploit personal networks. Through the social media, people have easy access to the friends, family members and colleagues. Social media has also increased people’s capacity to connect and establish relationships within new people (Jalil S, Jalil K, & Latiff A, 2010). This helps individuals to expand their social and professional networks thus making it easy for them to fulfill their needs. Thousands of people have used social media to hold meetings, dating, obtain new business and contacts, learn and establish new communities.


 Social media has also supported freedom and democratization of societies (Pernisco, N. 2010). The prevalence of social media has provided people with a platform to express themselves and communicate their desires. The capacity of social media to support user generated information has made it difficult for administration to curtail freedom of speech and expression. Blogs, social networking sites, video sharing and other media platforms have been used to communicate political messages. The world wide coverage of social media has enhanced the effectiveness of social media in support freedom and democracy (Senger, D. 2010). Messages communicate from remote parts of the world or from the most protected societies are received by a worldwide audience making it difficult to conceal information. The social media has granted people a global platform to air their views. The impact of social media on democracy and freedom was visible in the Arab spring.  


 Social media has also changed how business organization communicates with their customers (Pernisco N, 2010). In the past, business communicated with their customers through traditional channels such as televisions, news papers and bill boards. These channels provided one way communication between businesses and their customers, and did not support personal interaction. Social media has revolutionized business communication. Social media enables companies to have personal interaction with their customers. Not only are company able to pass information to consumers, but companies are also able to receive feedback from the consumer. Social media has turned consumers from passive recipient of information to active participants in the business communication process. Social media also provide a platform for network/ viral marketing. Individuals are most likely to trust a given product when the product is suggested by a friend rather than when the product is suggested by company representatives. Companies are today taking advantage of the network created by social media by persuading customers to share their product experiences with friends. This is an effective marketing strategy.


 Negative Impacts

            Social media has supported the invasion of privacy (Jalil S, Jalil K, & Latiff A, 2010). Social media has drastically improved the connectivity of people. People are able to establish giant networks of communication. However, this has led to loss of privacy. Users are required to publish their personal information on these online platforms. This exposes users to security risks as this information can easily by hackers and cyber criminals. Many people have also fallen victims to criminal elements when attempting to use social media to establish relationship (Pernisco N, 2010). Often, people establish online relationship with strangers and agree to meet in person. Several cases result in crimes such as robbery and kidnapping. Commercial organizations are also guilty of using invading the privacy of social media users. Some organizations use information from social media for commercial purpose without authorization from the owners of the information.


             Social media has also undermined freedom and democracy by supporting the spread of rumors, propaganda and other unreliable information (Senger, D. 2010). The capacity of social media to support user generated content has been instrumental in supporting democracy and freedom. However, this advantage has also been misused in order to manipulative democratic processes. There are many incidents where propaganda tactics such as generalization, testimonials, naming calling, band wagon and card staking, have been used to influence public perception and opinion (Senger, D. 2010). In many countries, political parties and leaders run blogs, social networking accounts and other social media accounts, which they use to influence the public. In such cases, the social media is turned from a platform where national issues are discussed to platform for spreading propaganda. In most cases, the social media are used to convey information that is least credible. The difficulty in tracing social media users has made the social media increasingly appealing to propagandist.


             Social media has also led to infringement of copyrights (Pernisco N, 2010). Copyright is a vital concept that helps protect intellectual property. Social media has undermined the copyright concepts by making it easy for people to share information. The code and share buttons, which are vital components of social media, have made it easy for people to diffuse and share information. Today, videos and music are shared through Youtube and electronic versions of books are transferred through emails. The social media has made virtually impossible for regulators to trace individuals who infringe on copyright laws.


Conclusion

Social media has grown in popularity in the last 10 years. This growth has been fueled by increased accessibility to internet and computing technologies. The growth of social media has brought about several positive changes in society. This changes include; increased connectivity; development of freedom and democracy, and improved marketing. However, the social media has also resulted in some negative outcomes on society. These negative outcomes include; invasion of privacy; spread of propaganda, and infringement of copyright laws. Society needs to education users on how to secure their information so as to avoid the invasion of privacy. There is also a need for society to train its members to think and reason independently in order to avoid the use of social media to undermine democratic processes. Stiff laws are also required to address the infringement of copyright by social media users.


References

Jalil Safurah,  Jalil Khaizuran, & Latiff Azmi. (2010). “Social Media and our Youths.” April 23, 2013. http://eprints.uthm.edu.my/469/1/Azmi_(icome2010).pdf

Pernisco, Nick. (2010). “Social Media: Impact and Implications for Society?” Student Journal for Media Literacy Education. 1 (1): 5

Senger, Dustin (2010). “Can Social Media Spread Democracy?” April 23, 2013. http://www.cdi-iran.org/images/pdf/172_2087751.pdf


 

 
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