Rise of Social Media in recent decade:
- The phenomenal rise of social media (SM) platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and others is proving to be a double-edged sword in the functioning of democracies.
- On the one hand, it has democratised access to information. On the other hand, it has concentrated power over that information with a handful of private companies, their billionaire owners, and certain ideologically committed activist groups.
- Billions of netizens around the world now feel empowered to bypass traditional curators of information, such as journalists and editors, in searching for their choice of content.
- They have also become creators and disseminators of content, not just consumers of it.
- This is further accentuated by tech platforms directing more content at people similar to what they have already seen, thus creating echo chambers of like-minded groups.
- On the other hand, misinformation on social media can alter public opinion for the worse and create a sense of panic and restlessness among the public.
- Social media is a platform which is highly liberal and it allows common citizens to put forward their views regarding a policy, act or ordinance.
- Social media allows people to directly communicate with their leaders and vice versa.
- The public opinion is amplified on social media, making democracy more transparent and even stronger.
Positive Impact of it:
- “The Power of Social Media is that, it forces Necessary Change.”
- It is generally agreed that social media provided crucial source of news during the Arab Spring.
- It helped in creating awareness about several issues, eg the fight for LGBTQ rights etc.
- Social media has definitely made us closer to other parts of the world.
- WhatsApp is important for rural users, as it helps them cheaply connect to family members far away and send pictures of their products to clients across India.
- Social media platforms provide a platform to raise their voice against injustice and inequality.
- Voices previously excluded from conversations can now find a channel.
- A few decades ago, if a farmer died due to non-repayment of loans, only the family mourned for the loss.
- Today if the same happens, the entire nation seems to empathize with the death of such farmers.
- Social media have increasingly been adopted by politicians, political activists and social movements as a means to engage, organize and communicate with citizens.
- Technology is double-edged. There are reasons to cheer as also to despair. Social media has various negative impacts like privacy issues, information overloads and internet fraud.
- Researchers have found that hyper-networking leads to negative health behaviour leading to laziness, obesity, depression, drug abuse, isolation or in the worst cases it may even lead to suicide.
- Social media has made the world a small space by allowing mass cultural exchange and intercultural communication.
- India being a secular country is a home for the people of various religious and cultural beliefs. When these beliefs clash the consequences are unpleasant.
- A mere comment or opinion on a certain belief on social media spreads like fire leading to riots and destructive rallies.
- Its heavy usage has ill effects on health issues and there is cyber bullying, online harassment and trolling.
- The trolling of women has brought to the fore the disturbing reality of online violence and abuse women face in India.
- A better and more effective approach to limit the influence of hoaxes on WhatsApp and other platforms is to increase media literacy.
- Data leaks at Facebook and Uber in the recent past have proven that the encryption has to be so high.
- The government should bring out a policy framework on the possible harm due to the internet messaging platforms to engage at a deeper level.
- The need of the hour is to tackle the gendered aspect of online abuse and uphold the rights of women in India.