For Better or for Worse? Social Media and the Future

“In short, we are all cyborgs: the cyborg is our ontology: it gives us our politics.” (Haraway, 1990: pg.150) Although from over a decade ago Haraway adequately describes how the internet and more recently specifically social media has become an integral part of our lives.  The disruption caused by the rise in popularity of social media has effected every part of society and looks as if it will do so far into the future.

 

Social media has changed our perception of the world massively. It has meant new methods of communication, new places to portray ourselves to others and new ways to source information. It has almost created a new world for us to adapt to. The internet providing a platform for all to use leads to everyone therefore sharing their opinion which leads to the belief that everyone’s ideas and opinions are valid or at least should be shared with others. This has created a blurred line between who provides official and truthful information and personal opinion. This form of free speech also provides a means of voicing criticism that can benefit social groups such as Marxists, as their views would not be openly promoted by media industries as they are the oppressing Bourgeoisie. However social media allows even minority views to be shared and is uncensored therefore benefiting a democratic society and negatively impacting any attempt at a communist society.

 

When looking at how social media has disrupted society it is difficult to evaluate its success when, as discussed, there are many negative aspects to such easy access to other people and information.  Compared to countries such as China which was labelled the worlds worst abuser of internet freedom in 2016 (The economist, 2017) and was even described as a “giant cage” this is due to the amount of strong internet filters and the number of restrictions in place. Initially thought to help with China’s democracy instead it has just provided them with another aspect of the public’s life to control. This further shows how disruption is socially constructed and varies depending on the place and culture it is affecting. Although social media has removed the barriers between countries this has not created social cohesion but perhaps the opposite. There is now so much individuality how are we able to agree?

 

The future effects of social media and its effects on news reporting are difficult to predict. However we can look at recent events such as Snapchat’s new method of reporting news stories. This is a method of getting news content to younger generations who may not necessarily use traditional methods of finding the news and may not even seek it out themselves. This provides a way for the information to be provided for them on an app that they already use without having to actively look for the information. As the average Snapchat user is between 18- 24 years old (The Statistics Portal, 2016) Snapchat is playing an important role in creating a new form of news reporting as we see a recent decline in traditional forms such as newspapers. An example of this is in 2015 Snapchat created a live story entitled “California Shooting” to report an event in Bernardino where 14 were shot dead and 21 wounded (India Digital Review, 2015). It allowed users to upload pictures and videos relating to the event, this was also released worldwide on their app instead of just locally as usual. This provides a form of news reporting that is citizen journalism however this differs from reporting on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram as before it is posted to the story worldwide it is filtered by Snapchat. This does enforce some form of regulation however they are not an official “impartial” body so is taking how they report the news as the truth just as bad as believing what friends have posted on other sites.

 

In conclusion, the introduction of social media has dramatically changed the way in which we use the internet. It has affected our behavior and the way we consume information such as the news. It has left traditional forms of media virtually redundant such as newspapers and magazines further impacting many different markets. It has disrupted society massively for the better and for the worse by challenging ideas such as power and control. Furthermore this makes us examine what we can consider legitimate and which, if any, source of information can be trusted. All this leads us to question whether we can really have social cohesion anymore when there is so much independence and individual power. This all combines to show just how extreme the impact of social media has been.

 

 

 

 

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