Does social media have a nationality?

Credit: Social media for photographers

Credit: Social media for photographers

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!

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Images OR Words?

Image

A picture is worth a thousand words” – Napoleon Bonaparte

 A very apt and concurrent thought, that struck the great French Emperor in the early nineteenth century, can easily be understood in the light of the communication practices employed today in the twenty first century. When was the last time that you read plain text without feeling that it lacked something?

Social Networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, Tumblr and Flickr and the like have made it big into the market because of their pictorial appeal amongst people. This post is not place one form of media over the other, but instead to dig deeper into the trend of socially accepting images, pictures, colored font, animated messages, graphical representations of information over plain and descriptive narratives. Everyone’s busy lives only allow them to dedicate a certain fraction of their time to social media, in which they aspire to learn as much as they can within minutes…who then, would prefer reading a 500 word essay on the austere conditions of certain pockets in Africa over a poignant image of the same which speaks volumes for itself? – A brilliant point driven home by Matt Cunningham in his blog. He also strongly believes,

“It is the images that make reality real. Images leave very little room for interpretation. We see it, and it happened. Instantly, the situation that surrounds us becomes believable.”

 Facebook keeps changing every week! With more emphasis on pictures, through the cover page, profile picture, FB graph search, enhanced space dedicated to photo album grids, etc, it appears more cheerful and colorful to the human eye. These features attract attention to pictorial and graphic details. Every action of a Facebook user is represented through his/her icon rather than the name. Instagram, Pintrest, Tumblr and Flickr  have cashed in heavily on this recent change in preference.

Images speak for themselves with the cooperation of the viewer’s psychology. They look how the viewer wants to see them and hence transgress the boundaries of lexical communication. This is perhaps the underlying secret of social media being global and glocal at the same time. Imagery and colors have no language. They appear, as they are perceived. They can either be endlessly thought provoking or just a pedestrian and insignificant image…determined by individual discretion. To illustrate my point, here are some similarities and differences between images and plain text:

Image

On a similar note, some images in social media are universal, such as the one below.

Image

In conclusion, it would not be wrong to say that images have stepped up the trend of electronic communication in today’s date. Their ability to speak volumes and convey multiple messages is effectively facilitated by various social media platforms. Like every coin has two sides, images sans text on social media have their disadvantages which can be misused by a miscreant mind, but that is an whole another chapter in itself

Email Marketing versus Social Media Marketing

social-media-vs-email-300x190

photo credit: twochicago.com

There has been an ongoing debate about the role of email in this social media dominated world. It is true that the latter has taken over the world at a much faster rate than did the vogue of emails, but the bottom line of sending personal letters online via technology is undoubtedly still the preferred choice as against social media communication. As quoted by Tedd Wasserman, Keren Gottfried, the research Manager at Ipsos, strongly believes that, “…It shouldn’t be surprising that we’re using a digital version of sending a letter. But the fact that a majority of people are using [the Internet] for social networking is a paradigm shift; there’s no equivalent in the offline world.”

Shea Bennet pictographically and efficiently analyzes the pros and cons of social media and email marketing to further buttress Jonathan Bennet’s view that the latter has always been more popular and widely used than the former. To briefly summarize the main points of Bennet’s argument:

• Email provides a level of privacy and professionalism
• Email inboxes provide a one stop-hub for tasks and one-to-one communications
• There’s not the worry about privacy issues with email as there is with social media
• Email works across all platforms and applications
• Email has become more than just a two-way communication tool
• Social media does not provide a professional online space for business one-to-ones
• Social media has a major issue with ownership

It is thus not surprising that all the social media websites have realized the importance of personalization of messages and inculcated the email features within their design. To interact on a public platform may be a technological advancement and a step encouraging the global village system to bring people closer, but, each individual still likes his/her own personal space and privacy where they can have full control.

Youtube – a shortcut to success

Photo credit: blog.involutiondigital.com

Photo credit: blog.involutiondigital.com

Gone are the days when upcoming and struggling artists had to rely on expensive means to showcase their talent to the world… because Google has gifted Youtube to the universe! If you excel at something and want to be seen and heard across the globe, for no penny spent in promotion or advertising, social media is just the right platform for you! Just to give you a brief glimpse into what this post is going to be about, spare a few minutes to watch this artist balance wooden sticks in the air with perfect ease!

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10150770562385405

MySpace used to encourage musicians and also housed bands and upcoming artists, but it couldn’t gather the momentum that Youtube has managed within years. Perhaps because the latter is not eclectic and welcomes each and everyone whole heartedly…whether you are students who have just graduated and have a knack for singing, dancing or acting like the Wong Fu Productions or just want to try your hand at acoustic cover songs like Shankar Tucker with other budding artists.

Youtube videos are well compatible with other websites, and easy to embed in posts, tweets, etc too. They are easy to deal with and do not involve too many complicated procedures. A visible growth of followers, conversations with fans and shares of one’s videos motivates the upcoming artist to keep striving hard till he reaches his peak of popularity. It is no secret that David Choi began in this virtual world of social media to rise to fame and finally perform internationally!

The multilingual aspect of social media enables us to access wonderful artists from remote parts of the world. For example, had it not been for Facebook, I would have never learnt that such talented dancers also exist! Watch the video below and experience the hair-raising performance, which would have probably never crossed your path, were these artists involved in local and physical performances!

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10200826305370112

For many, this platform is a blessing in disguise as it is a gateway into the world of various Arts. You could be a sand artist, a painter, a musician,  an upcoming band, an amateur production group, a singer, a dancer, or anything that deserves an eye or an ear…and social media has the answer for it all.  With its vast outreach and huge potential circumference to engulf each and every person on the planet,  it is not difficult to be noticed.

Are you BRAVE enough to go public?

While this video might beautifully advertise a new software that makes the web world more efficient, it also has an underlying tone of how public and accessible each one’s records are on the internet. In today’s world, it very easy to trace the activities of an individual via the Internet. As scary as this sounds, it is that much difficult to refrain from indulging into such information sharing activities. You do not have to be a social media fan in order to be noticed, just swiping your credit cards into a machine, medical prescriptions from an electronic device, browsing the internet for general information, shopping online and the like, can gather good enough data about you and release it into the electronic world! You may not even realize that you have left traceable records behind, as you walk out of the shopping mall!

Technology is considered to be one of the greatest achievements of mankind. To think of it again, I would have my own apprehensions in readily accepting that statement. It is true that my grandparents faced hardships in their time, but they knew how to overcome them with diligent efforts. They found it hilarious when I tried to explain the concept of identity theft to them, in today’s world! We are all engulfed in this as Internet has become a part of our lives—there are no two ways about it. But what is in our hands is to accept this fact whole-heartedly or not. Chris Brogan describes how sharing and talking about it on social media can deal with depression. He does not seek others’ advices or consolation on it but he feels solace in just knowing that his troubles are out there in that infinite space!

Beth Kanter shares a different point of view on being brave and facing the world boldly. In order to survive in today’s electronic world, one has to keep abreast with the Internet, knowing that the definition of privacy and personal space has been traded with the phenomenon of information sharing. With the knowledge and acceptance of that compromise, the one who takes the right measures to protect his/her identity and actions on the Internet, can be recognized as a brave soldier in facing the fast-paced wired world.