The social media is all about the people, their relationships, and connections irrespective of space and time. Over the past few years, the social media has grown tremendously being the most used media of communication that has social, political and media implications on the society. As part of the modern lifestyle, social media has sparked different impacts either positive or negative to the society in general. Bode et al. (2013, p. 416) define the social media or social networking sites as web-based services that allow individual users to create public profiles, request for friends and have a friend list, and view as well as share their opinions and views. This essay supports the idea by Bode et al. (2013, p. 414) that social media has changed everything in society from business, social ties to politics. Therefore, this paper explores the political and social changes of social media, to get a deeper insight into how it has revolutionized the society.
The social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Myspace among others enable people within different social ties such as friends, families, workmates, and spouses to connect and keep in touch with their social lives (Neelamalar and Chitra, 2009, p.126). In fact, social media also makes it possible for members of a group to reconnect through creating self-interest groups. Besides the importance of social media in maintaining social relationships, it has also created room for sharing interests with other like-minded individuals through joining groups. For instance, the additional features of social networking sites help members to find jobs and keep business contacts. On the same note, social media also allow its members to create profiles that reflect their character and share in their experiences with other members of the group. A good example is SnapChat and YouTube that are used by individuals to share video images.
The social media or the social networking sites have also facilitated access to information and thus communication. Members of different sites are grouped into communities where they share their experiences, opinions, worries, and questions, and the members have the right of participating in discussing threads, forums, polls of the comment sections. The social media has increased access to information leading to both positive and negative changes in the modern day world (Neelamalar and Chitra, 2009, p.126). On the negative, the social media sites are being used by some malicious people to perpetrate cybercrime which has grown to be a threat to the privacy of individuals within the social media sites. Millions of individuals report being victims of cyberbullying such as stalking as they interact online with friends and strangers (Neelamalar and Chitra, 2009, p.126). However, on the positive side, social media helps in building new relationships.
Social networking sites also have political changes or implications. Bode et al. (2013, p.414) opine that social media sites have almost half a billion users worldwide, the majority which is young people. The social media site supplements the traditional media in influencing political discussions and expression, thus increasing civic participation of citizens in political matters. The people within different communities express their political opinions and share different ideas that are useful in making politically oriented decisions either at the group or individual level. Bode et al. (2013, p. 417) give an example of the anti-war activism during the 2013 Iraq war where people whose ideas diverged from that of the mainstream media took to the social media as the source of discussions, expression, and information. In this respect, most of the youths who are the largest members of the social media have gained participation compared to the traditional settings that secluded the youths from political matters. According to Baker (2016, p.72), the social media has become an integral tool for American citizens to gain political knowledge as well as engage in the political process, giving an example of Minnesota E-Democracy. The Minnesota E-Democracy attempted to bring together the citizens to discuss the issues of political concern in their regions. The social media sites have also been used to propagate campaign messages by the case of the political figure in which the politicians are assured of reaching every citizen as most of the people have access to the social media sites. An ideal example is Obama’s “Yes we can” campaign that took hold of the social media. Therefore, social media has revolutionized the old rigid manner in which people participated in politics at local and state levels.
Still, in politics, social media has transformed the way in which political campaigns are conducted. Coffee (2012) gives an example of President Barack Obama’s campaign that brought a change through the use of social media to raise billion dollars online. Coffee (2012) further opines that over 75% of the youth and 93% of the adults have access to cell phones that can connect them to their social media pages. These population has become a prominent target of the political campaigns as they have the power to influence those that are not yet members of the social media. The political advertisers, therefore, leverage on the masses within the virtual communities to lay down the agenda of their leader. As a matter of fact, the candidates and analysts can use the response from social media to plan ahead or change their strategies to win the votes of the majority of citizens (Coffee, 2012). Therefore, the social media has taken the role previously left to the print media, radio and televisions, this changing the political landscape of the society.
Social media has also changed the manner in which education programs are being rolled out. According to Zaidieh (2016, p.18), social networking sites allow the creation of groups of shared interests. As such, these platforms have enabled students to share learning materials, engage in debates and discussions aligned to their different subjects areas. Likewise, tutors and administrators use social networking sites as materials to facilitate learning. There has been a new culture of learning made enjoyable through access to information when it is needed (Zaidieh, 2016, p.19, Buzzetto-More, 2012, p.63). Furthermore, the social media sites are real-time, and the students can connect and interact real-time especially in matters that need innovation. The students and tutors alike can create and share content, interact and ask questions, supplementing the traditional class sessions, most of which are always boring. YouTube, for example, has provided a platform where various individuals including scholars can upload videos with them explaining or elaborating meaningful contents that are probably not clear when explained in class (Buzzetto-More, 2012, 88). Consequently, students who are slow learners grab the opportunity and get to learn and internalize the concepts when off the classroom environments. The social networks are therefore in tandem with the social capital theory as they create communities where people with similar interests interact and help each other (Buzzetto-More, 2012, p.65). Concerning change, the traditional form of education that was manual has been replaced a great deal with the era of social media.
The recent trends across the world in matters concerning the political stability of countries, social media has provided a platform where the social movements are organized and made to take root. Social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube have given individuals a voice to be heard (Harlow, 2011, p.252). A famous example is the Arab Spring case in the Middle East where social media had a hand in the creation and promotion of the social movements (Harlow, 2011, p.252). In a similar fashion, social media has been used in Philipines, Egypt, and Moldova to stir up demonstrations thus creating a revolution (Fadaee, 2014, p.252). In this manner, social media has taken the role of traditional media helping people to voice their ideologies and concerns with freedom.
In brief, social media has grown as a network where people are connected to virtual communities. In doing so, social media has brought a revolution to society changing nearly everything. Social media has enhanced communication and social interaction between people while at the same time changed the way in which learning takes place. Furthermore, social media also takes the role of the traditional media in the facilitation of information. In fact, most of the media house do use social media to disseminate information. Politically, the social media has created a whole new platform for political campaigns, political discussions, and expressions, making the citizens including the youth participate in such civic duties, unlike the past. Lastly, social media has also created an avenue where the society can converge and form social movements that champion for different needs that are integral to the community. Therefore, social media has changed almost everything in society through taking the role previously left for traditional media such as TVs, radio, and magazines among others.
Baker, M. (2016). The Impact of Social Networking Sites on Politics. The Review: A Journal of Undergraduate Student Research 10, [online] 5(6), pp.72-74. Available at: http://fisherpub.sjfc.edu/ur/vol10/iss1/12.
Bode, L., Vraga, E., Borah, P. and Shah, D. (2013). A New Space for Political Behavior: Political Social Networking and its Democratic Consequences. J Comput-Mediat Comm, 19(3), pp.414-429.
Buzzetto-More, N. (2012). Social Networking in Undergraduate Education. Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management, 7(2), pp.63-90.
Coffee, C. (2012). How social media has changed political campaigns. [Online] D Custom. Available at: http://dcustom.com/how-social-media-has-changed-political-campaigns/ [Accessed 10 Mar. 2016].
Fadaee, S. (2014). Understanding European Movements: New Social Movements, Global Justice Struggles, Anti-Austerity Protest. Social Movement Studies, 14(2), pp.251-253.
Harlow, S. (2011). Social media and social movements: Facebook and an online Guatemalan justice movement that moved offline. New Media & Society, 14(2), pp.225-243.
Neelamalar, M. and Chitra, P. (2009). New media and society: A Study on the impact of social networking sites on Indian youth. Studies in communication, 6(2), pp.125-145.
Zaidieh, A. (2016). The Use of Social Networking in Education: Challenges and Opportunities. World of Computer Science and Information Technology Journal, 2(1), pp.18-21.
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