Social Media is the collective of online communication channels which are dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content sharing and collaboration. Social media is used by over half of the current population with 99% of people aged 16-24 in the UK stating that they had used social media within the past week, while they spent close to an hour a day using it to communicate. Social media is quickly evolving every day and it is almost impossible to reject and hide from this new form of media. It is changing the way we each live our lives and how we view certain things.
Not only is it an important part of socialization but it is now used to market and motivate people to become a part of a larger community. Social media is used every day to bring awareness to underlying issues that the public would not have known about in past decades. Every minute we collectively send more than 30 million messages on Facebook and almost 350,000 tweets. It was estimated in 2010 that by 2018, 2.44 billion people will be using social networks, which is a significant rise from the 970,000 users in 2010. Social media mogul Facebook has a UK audience which is just shy over 40 million, meaning just over half of the population holds an account. Other social media sites and applications include Twitter, which already exceeds 20 million UK account users as well as LinkedIn and Instagram, which have close to 10 million UK account holders each.
Although social media is just one of many factors, it has nevertheless played a critical role in new age society and has impacted society immensely. Social media is also sometimes referred to as “Web 2.0”, this concept was popularized by Tim O’Reilly and Dale Dougherty. In the ‘first version’ of the web, before social media, users were able to view information but were unable to interact with it in a way that’s beneficial to them. With the creation of “Web 2.0”, the Internet is now a platform itself, where people are essentially just creating applications to better it. The more people collaborating, the better the user interface. Social media now has the ability to spread a powerful message faster and more effectively than any other platform on the planet. Social media is undeniably changing the way we communicate and how we as people find and share information, but to what extent has it helped raise awareness regarding political and global issues?
The public now has the ability to witness ground-breaking news and share it globally on online platforms in a matter of seconds. An example of this would be during the Bin Laden raid in 2011. A local IT consultant live tweeted throughout the raid, causing the public to be aware of the situation before President Obama had officially announced it to the world. This form of journalism has allowed more extraneous information including raw footage of famine and war to be easily collected and shared with the world. Social media is going from a niche ability to an essential job requirement. “In just seven years, newsrooms have been completely disrupted by social media. Social media skills are no longer considered niche, and solely the responsibility of a small team in the newsroom. Instead social media affects the way the whole organization runs.” Social media has changed the way that news outlets run a considerable amount, gone are the days when perfect quality pictures need to be taken. The digital aged has moved us in to a new light and a new way of reflecting the news to its viewers. “Social media allows citizens to be the source of ideas, plans and initiatives in an easier way than ever before.”
The rise of social media over the past years has enabled us to access information and communicate with each other much faster than ever before. Whether it be a simple picture, tweet or post, we are instantly made aware of different issues around the world that we wouldn’t be aware of before. “Politicians and government officials once had to travel to interact with citizens, now online town halls strengthen the connections between them, while providing a platform for direct input on government initiatives.” Former president, Barack Obama was the first president to successfully use social media to benefit his campaign. His Ask Me Anything #AMA, which featured on popular networking site Reddit became one of the most popular threads of all time. This strategy helped Obama not only connect with young voters but reach minority voters as well. The importance of social media in the political world is more important than ever, with 41% of young people aged 15-25 participating in political surveys and discussions. Within the first hour of tweeting, Donald Trump received 5,357 retweets and 24,097 likes on a tweet about US trade practices. These figures alone show just how important social media is in modern day politics and society itself, as well as how much social media has helped politicians connect with their constituents. In the 2016 presidential election the estimated spending on social media was a staggering half a million. Social media is considered to be the most “important platform for the millennial generation”. 35% of US citizens aged 18 to 29 stated that social media was the most helpful source of information regarding the 2016 presidential election. These figures show that social media has now become the go to tool for every aspect of life, be it global issues, politics or simply sharing photos with friends.
Social media has helped the world tackle global issues face on and in a way that we have never been able to do before. One trending image can spark a wildfire of discussion about issues and has the ability to reach every powerful figure in the world. There is no doubt that photojournalism has helped increase awareness among the general population whether it be sexual harassment, slavery or abuse of power. “I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists especially the Taliban…” The famous words of 16-year-old Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai at the United Nation Youth Assembly which went viral on social media mega giant YouTube and hit millions of retweets in July 2013. Her blog for BBC Urdu in 2009 also caught global attention when she recorded her dramatic life under the Taliban. Since then, the UK government has worked closely with Malala to ensure that this social justice does not go unseen. This simple YouTube video which was likely filmed on a mobile phone was able to reach thousands from all over the world.
The #KONY2012 movement is considered to be the first real social media movement to capture the western world’s attention. The Invisible Children mini-documentary was viewed over 67 million times on YouTube in the first five days of uploading, with the majority of its viewers being aged 13-24. 27% of young adults learned about the movement through social media sites and another 8% via other Internet sources. Only 10% of young adults learned about it through traditional media. These figures alone prove that social media is now served as a primary source of news for most young adults and the number is rising as the years go on. Although a vast amount of awareness was created, it was made apparent that the movement was exaggerated immensely and that only 30% off proceedings actually made it to the child soldiers. Social media has the ability to make anything news in seconds and this isn’t always a beneficial thing. Awareness was made for the rich to line their pockets and ethically this is wrong. However, this is not always the case. A positive example of how social media has helped the world tackle global issues would be the ‘Libya slave auctions’, which were brought to light late 2017, leading to global outrage across all platforms. Africa represents an expanding market for social media however, due to the lack of education in the continent, the smugglers were able to use social media to create false job opportunities in Europe. 3,000 refugees have died while attempting the journey to a new life. Famous figures Naomi Campbell and Giggs were among the celebrities which rallied together to help raise awareness on the modern day slavery. Through platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat thousands of people have been able to sign petitions and donate money which helped asked the UK government to take action on the issue.
Thanks to social media, the subject of sexual harassment was brought to light more than ever in 2017. The Figures show that there have been over 3.1 million tweets; 194, 692 Instagram posts, and 1.6 million Facebook posts around the famous #MeToo movement since October 15th 2017. The #MeToo hashtag has been used more than 1m times in the US, Europe, the Middle East and beyond. The internet age is more equipped than ever to deal with such delicate social issues. Social media has helped build feminism, helping women to build solidarity, as seen with the #YesAllWomen hashtag that trended for weeks, famously after Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree in California. The work of social media has also helped to keep international attention on events such as the #BringBackOurGirls campaign launched after the abduction of more than 300 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria.
Social media was a great tool in the summer of 2014. The #ALSicebucketchallenge helped the association raise over $115 million. As of August 2014, it had resulted in 1.2 million related Facebook videos and 2.2 million Twitter mentions. Social media required users to videos themselves throwing buckets of ice cold water over each other or themselves and nominating their friends to do the same whilst also donating money to the ALS Charity (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).
In mid 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager was killed by a police officer and the scene was caught on Twitter User “@TheePharaoh” timeline as he posted pictures of the immediate aftermath. Following riots, the public turned to the notion of “see something, say something”. Antonio French, a sworn by Citizen Journalist spent days after the shooting posting to Twitter a series of police actions he had captured and was deemed a “Citizen Journalist of the best kind: a credible witness who helped inform the wider public about a critical matter”. The Oscar Grant Shooting, which occurred in 2009 in Oakland is just many of the social media political uproars. In the early hours of New Year’s Day, BART police officer Johannes Mehserle shot an unarmed man, Oscar Grant, for apparently resisting arrest at a train station in Oakland, California. Bystanders in a delayed train parallel to the shooting caught the incident on digital phones. Within a day, the footage was broadcast online and on TV stations across the world which eventually incited protests, and featuring heavily in the ongoing manslaughter trial. Grant’s death is one in a line of many cases of police brutality caught on mobile phones by onlookers. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) group who fight for black rights, especially against the police rely mainly on Citizen Journalism to broadcast exactly what is going on across the USA.
I believe that the positives outweigh the negatives in terms of social media helping to raise awareness regarding politics and global issues. There are more social media platforms than ever before and the industry is growing at a fast rate. In recent years the public is able to tell the difference between real and fake news, whereas in 2012 when the KONY movement happened, social media was a very new aspect of our life. Outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat have allowed a change in the way we communicate our opinions on politics and global issues as well as provide us with more sources of reliable information than ever before.