In this blog post, I try to do justice to this question by not only analyzing the international scope and reach of social media, but also the different methods in which this platform is adopted into the lives of people internationally. When we sit to ponder over the different events that have occurred in the recent history, it is hard to leave out the crucial role of social media from the scenario.
Arab Uprisings! Kony Campaign 2012! Japan Earthquake (2011)! Narendra Modi’s Political campaign (2012)! Hurricane Sandy (2012)! Ai Wei Wei’s Freedom Struggle!…All these globe trotting headlines have the common element of Social Media attached to them. It is not about Africa, India, Japan, America or China…it is about social media that has no boundaries and pervades across the globe.
To illustrate my stand, I would like to jog your memory back to the inception of the Arab Uprisings. The National, UAE’s trusted source of information reported that social media (Facebook and Twitter, in particular) were considered to have “played a critical role in mobilisation, empowerment, shaping opinions and influencing change.” Similarly, were it not for the advocacy group, Invisible Children, who exposed the atrocities through Youtube in 2006, the world would’ve been blind to the barbarism of Joseph Kony, the brutal warlord! Look at the relief efforts that took place alongside the calamities of the Japan Earthquake and the Hurricane Sandy in the same frame of time…not just in the countries that were affected…but all over the world!
Narendra Modi, who is the next potential Prime Minister of India (devoid of any personal political inclination and/or assertions) executed a brilliant political campaign, before the State elections, that was designed by a Public Relations practitioner in Washington DC! On similar lines is the strength and support provided by the United States of America to the Chinese artist and activist, Ai Wei Wei, to stand against all odds and brutalities showered upon him by his own country! With the cooperation of social media and the others from his clan worldwide, this artist has been able to find his voice and has had the courage to oppose the orthodoxy practiced by the Chinese Government. Such is the power of this wired world that we live in…a global village indeed, where each one is right next to each other in virtual space!
As much as a blessing in disguise, social media can be really horrid at times too. Like any coin that has two sides, social media has its own shares of negative outcomes. With so much power in the hands of humans, as to create and share, there ought to be carelessness and misuse of this resource. May it be the Domino’s or Applebee’s in America or the Russian International airline, Aeroflot, all the corporates are now sacking their employees left, right and center at the slightest hint of misconduct and violation of corporate policies on social media. Full-fledged case studies, conducted months or years later, seldom reveal that the accused employee was not guilty, and yet had to lose their jobs in order to safeguard the company’s reputation in the eye of its target publics. Social media is thus a constant element that lingers around each individual. Shashi Tharoor, for example, had to step down from the prestigious position of a Minister of State for External Affairs, because of a misconstrued comment on Twitter while traveling in the economy class of an airline—this was blown out of proportion by the media where the common public was equated to the “cattle class”, which, in turn, was translated and misunderstood as his political party’s taunt on the austerity of that class!
Not every social media user can be a genius like Anonymous who can have a total control of this technology. It is difficult to define social media, as it is multi-faceted and can easily make or break an individual. It is local, national and global at the same time, thus, putting on the same mask as the user to blend in easily.
In short, social media is everywhere, and there is no escape from it…yet!