Social Media: Successes + Failures

By: Junelsy Sánchez

Social media has become the fastest growing information and entertainment outlet of all time. Booming in the present generation, it has become a place where not only are people able to learn of what’s going on half way around the world but they can do so without having to wait all day for the local news. Another thing that does not wait is their reactions; opinions on how the news affect them, how it makes them feel and what they want to do about it flood into the comments section of every known platform. There have been various movements that have started on social media and others that have used the different outlets to increase their reach. Information moves very quickly through social media and this can be both good and bad. On one hand, the audience creates their opinion based on what they hear first. If the information made available is not complete or factual, this creates bigger problems than a simple disagreement. Once opinions are publicized, it has been made difficult for someone to change their position regardless if they acknowledge they did not have complete information. However, people still react to news on a first come, first speak sense. As soon as they hear a certain piece of news they go online and make their opinions public. For example, I once saw the header of an article that read “RIP Jim Carrey” while the actor is still alive and well. I went straight to twitter to see if other people knew about it or if they had posted anything related to what I thought were horrible news, given my admiration of his work, and as it turns out the news was false.

On the other hand, making something go viral can make the story/event peak and hinder any significant progress. Movements like the Gezi protests in Turkey had their 15 seconds of fame but when was the last time we heard anything related to the topic? How about the Arab Spring? Another fail of a social media campaign was the NYPD’s #myNYPD campaign. NYPD asked people to share photos of themselves with friendly police officers; however this backfired when people posted pictures of police brutality instead. An additional negative side to social media is that it can be used for propaganda of the wrong kind. Organizations like ISIS have used their presence online to instill fear in the public.

According to Hamza Shaban, “what ignites digitally augmented movements at the beginning undermines them in the end.” Setting up a revolution through social media does create a heightened ability to grab a bigger audience but it takes away from the careful thought process and building of any actual organization. Some may see this rapid spread as an advantage but we can’t deny that it makes it more personal to deal with people face to face, to be able to express thoughts and opinions out loud. There is only so much that can be discussed online when and where there is also the idea of censorship.

Social media can shift the focus of the conversation but it hasn’t been too successful in yielding actual changes.

Articles used/researched:

Hamza Shaban “How Social Media Can Weaken a Revolution”

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/twitter-makes- it-easy- to-start- a-revolution- without-finishing- it

Zeynep Tufekci “Social Movements and Governments in the Digital Age: Evaluating a Complex

Landscape.” http://jia.sipa.columbia.edu/files/2014/12/xvii-18_Tufekci_Article.pdf