The Significance of Social Media

Interaction is a significant aspect of human culture. An article by Mike Laurie investigates the different ways social media has changed us. Over time many different forms of communication have evolved. From inconvenient, labour intensive technologies such as Morse code and carrier pigeons, to instantaneous connections through wireless devices. Rather than posting a letter or buying a newspaper we are now able to share, produce, and circulate endless amounts of information in simple and effective ways.

Skeptics consider social networking to be straining society with regard to social etiquette and identity. However, I would deem these to be issues within the media as a whole and not just social media. Consider a teenage girl reading a magazine – the collaboration of articles and images would produce something to the effect of: “Wear this. Wear that. Act like this around boys. If you’re thin and pretty you will be happy and popular”. In this sense, the consumer only has the option to do just that – consume. And while these same messages may be sprawled across the Internet, we are no longer lazy consumers of passive messages – we are active participants. Social media is about being connected, engaging with old friends and creating new experiences. Instead of being limited to the information in a 25-page magazine, we can now explore what feels like infinite amounts of content. Laurie describes time before the Internet to be when limitations of learning existed due to poor literacy and lack of access to books. If “knowledge is power” and you have access to continuous information distribution, your desire for knowledge is legitimately within fingertips.

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An article By David Wallace outlines the statistics with regard to the influence social media has had beyond the notion of socialising. Employment, news, law enforcement, education, political participation, economy, music industries and marketing systems have all been prompted and enhanced through social media. A report by PEW suggested that social networks have encouraged younger generations to be more involved in political issues, a fine example of society being more interested and informed with the world around us.

Through citizen journalism comes the rise of “gatewatchers”, where user-generated content flows freely among platforms. Axel Bruns (2003) states that social networks fabricate participant communities through various understandings and interpretations. Bruns states that blogging should be recognised as a significant form of journalism. Online gatewatchers may actually compliment the mainstream journalism industry through the diversity of discussion and debate, no longer being limited by the “gatekeeper”.

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3 thoughts on “The Significance of Social Media

  1. I definitely agree with the point you make regarding the evolution of social media and how this has affected society’s interaction in real time. Although we can argue that there is a strain on our communication with people close to us in reality (such as when you go to a restaurant and there are two people dining together, and both do not speak, only play with their smartphones… I see this way too often), I think the positives that we have gained from the development of technology outweighs these negatives. The way in which you highlight the instantaneous nature of communication nowadays is a great example of this. Many social groups (including youth) are also so involved in what is happening around the world, as we speak – which is why I think Twitter is such a revolutionary concept that has helped to change the way we interact with global issues, and has really brought back the idea that we are not just consuming information anymore.

  2. I definitely agree with the report by PEW. I know personally that through Twitter and other forms of social media I was able to get a better understanding for politics and gain knowledge through other people thoughts and opinions.
    Media like magazines and newspapers have a limited amount of space for information in one issue, where as the internet unlimited space (for now).
    Consumers are now able to become prosumers, and i agree that gatewatchers do compliment the mainstream journalism industry.

  3. Your Gatekeeping point I think is one of the most significant effects of social media on Journalism. Generations of the past, such as our grandparents and arguably even our parents grew up in media climates saturated by currents of agenda and bias of the major news organisations. And even if they could identify these currents there was little other choice in terms of alternative media outlets. Whilst these levels of bias are still extremely prevalent even now (i.e News Corp and the recent election: News Corp having been accused of viewing the Government’s “National Broadband Network as a threat to his cable infrastructure and Foxtel’s business model and is attempting to knock it off through supporting the Opposition” Chen, 2013), the rise of social media has given way to a more acute level of awareness amongst at least a significant portion of the media consuming Australian public. As we continue to move forward, I feel as though these levels of awareness will only continue to grow amongst global media audiences.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-12/chen-media-influence-in-election-campaigns/4879730

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