Social Media has well and truly arrived to rule the minds and digital lives of our people, having evolved to be the primary source of information and emerging as the de-facto mode of communication. Be it Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat or the time-tested blogs — the average netizen is spending an increasing amount of time seeing, reading and posting mundane, everyday updates on various social media platforms.
We are all creating information (and knowledge) at unprecedented levels, surpassing the traditional modes of media and communication many times over. Personal posts via social media tools far outnumber the messages people send each other via email, sms, or the ancient and more-romanticised mode of pen-on-paper. There are many youngsters, especially in the college-going age, who have never used email and rely completely on social media tools. Also, the rampant use of social media has further greyed-out the line between posts for personal and public consumption — mostly in the guise of the all-encompassing term called “social media friends”.
Yet, the golden age of social media is just at its nascent stage — with continued technological innovations making internet and smart devices accessible to a hitherto digitally-dormant populace. With each passing day, more people across the country and the globe are being digitally empowered — and coming in contact with a new world that seemingly has no borders; where news is reported by anybody and accessed by thousands (if not millions of people) within a few seconds. The ever-increasing popularity of social media tools has enabled people in the most impoverished and politically-troubled areas of the world to reach out to the conscience of global citizens, even as it has challenged the traditional news-media organisations to think out-of-the-box and stay relevant.
These developments have a darker side too, for it is now increasingly difficult to gauge the veracity of information that makes its way into our phones and lives, or to understand the political intent or ideology that is driving these social stories. As much as we have emerged in a digitally-connected social world, a few rather important questions repeatedly hit us day in and out: Who is sending this news and what does it mean for me? How much of this information is true? What is the guarantee that this is not yet another scam? Is this story something I should act on immediately or just file away as ideological propaganda?
Answering these difficult questions via technological innovations and safeguarding the interests of netizens (particularly the new and novice social users) is where the internet and social media industry is headed next. Robust, easy-to-use and accessible user interfaces will continue to pave the path for higher adoption and prove to be the game-changers to revolutionise the social experience of media. Meanwhile, continue to change the world one tweet at a time!
Note: First published in the Social Media >> people >> voices >> power book in April 2017 by @DEFIndia for Social Media for Empowerment Awards 2017.
First published online by Nakul Shenoy at Medium.com on May 24, 2017.