People see the world with the information they have. The information gathered are from news outlets which inform people about events happening beyond their surroundings. But the thing with news outlets is, it is a controlled spread of information. The editor decides what to publish and how much to publish. It is commercialized and faces restrictions and limitations from authorities. So the perceptions based on information of these news outlets could be considered as shaped under external forces. On the other hand, content on social media does not have to go through approval of editors. Raw information is available to people which makes them able to form a neutral perception of a situation.
With the emergence of social media, the social dynamics for growth and development of societies has drastically changed. Social Media impacts the society which was not imaginable five or ten years ago. The relationships forming and breaking up, the access to news and information, reaching out to society for furthering a specific cause or promoting a brand, to participate and feel involved in the things happening around locally or globally, in essence social media is used in ways that are shaping our political views, our governmental policies, our education, culture, careers and innovations.
Politics and Transparent Democracy
Social Media has played huge role information and toppling of governments in the past decade. Starting from the Arab spring which saw several Arab nations overthrow incompetent governments regimes controlling the countries post-colonization, the shocking election of Donald Trump to American Presidency and rise of Imran Khan, the once playboy Cricketer to Pakistani Premiership who was tauntingly dubbed as Prime Minister of social media by opponents due to his extensive campaigns on social media against the rigging and corruption of the then government. Now every political force has made social media presence essential to their public relations and has thus far embraced the changes social media has brought upon in societies.
The rise of social media has largely put the lives of Politicians and prominent government figures in front of the constituents. Still, well-managed PR teams can shift public opinions regarding a certain candidate but overall social media has enlightened people to information once kept secret behind closed doors and make their judgment of a politician more informed.
Moreover, the processes of rigging the elections with help from media outlets and state machinery has become less possible due to immediate reporting on social media platforms and the subsequent uproars against it.
Shaping State Policies
With the fresh blood of voters inducted into political system who has almost 90% presence on social media, state departments has made their own social accounts to stay connected with public and keep them aware of the policies adopted regarding defense, education and public health. It has ensured more transparency.
Social Media Assistance in Emergencies
The government and media are still using emergency broadcast systems in general but they have also adopted social media systems for public who spends more time on mobile devices than listening to radio or TV. Social Media has become a really important component of emergency response and preparedness as users might see the warning posts first and then spread it using their platforms to inform others and in turn save countless lives.
Positive Effects of Social Media on Education
There is a big debate on the adverse effects of social media on education due to misuse but here we will see at its usefulness. First, learning has become very easy due to access to all forms of learning on internet over various platforms. The availability of information has made it easier to find relevant material quickly as compared to visiting libraries. Presence of counselors and fellow students facing same issues in learning has also helped people solve their problems more quickly. Students and teachers alike can make their knowledge versatile by discussing their ideas on different educational groups and in return can be enlightened with ideas from others.
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Healthcare of society and help of social media
Social Media offers tools through which the healthcare officials to create awareness during outbreaks seasons, create health policies and stay connected with colleagues to keep up to date with different approaches to a problem. Patients has also benefitted from social media through moral and financial support from around the world. Social media is serving an effective way of communication between patients and healthcare providers.
Positive Role of Social Media in Economy and Commerce
World is slowly drifting towards complete e-commerce where consumers are solely relying on e-shops for their daily grocery shopping to hiring a handyman. Businesses have realized social media insights are helpful in stimulating demand and targeting a specific product in a market. Social media has increased number of businesses as posting product sales is almost free on social media which has also increased margin of profit as compared to setting up an actual shop. The online traffic is also more than people visiting shops which means more sales. In short, social media offers opportunities for high returns from small investments.
Social Activism and Use of Social Media
The use of social media to activate society against brutality or get people to rally behind a cause has enabled person to influence opinions, create inclusiveness for masses and a new dimension for public relations. Public has a certain direct contact with the responsible authority to decrease response time to action upon the issue.
All in all, a new virtual world has been created within every aspect of society where all the limiting factors of time, distance and nationality are gone. Public come together to protest or solve issues that concern them irrespective of color or creed. Social media content is not just a source of raw information but has become an interactive tool where people collaborate through exchange of knowledge and ideas which can be helpful in raising awareness, enhance cross border interactions, resolving issues and conflicts, provide moral and financial support and tackle an emergency inefficient and timely manner. With increased penetration and usage of social media, societies are enhancing their developmental agendas with breath-taking speed.
By: Sahar Saba Pirzada
Mardan Women University