Social Media: Making a Difference

In watching Clay Shirky’s video on the profound changes social media has created across the globe, I was astounded by the ways in which simple applications like Twitter have made such a difference in information. One example Shirky discusses is how Twitter reported an earthquake in China before the news agency was able to. Before social media advances it took China over three months to admit an earthquake had occurred while with Twitter it was up in moments.

Soon after the earthquakes when the parents of children tragically killed by poorly built schools protested, China shut down the civil protests. China used man y of its technological capabilities for filtering what content comes in and goes out of the nation. Social media like Twitter and Facebook were slowed to a crawl due to the government censorship.

Can social media help countries whose governments are so dictatorial that simple conveniences we take for granted are not allowed? Can Twitter and Facebook help mobilize people across the globe to act against the powers that be?

In the recent riots in England, it is easy to see how social media like Twitter and Facebook can not only help fight corruption, but can aid it as well. The protesters and looters in England mobilized their attacks via social media networks. Where is the line drawn between allowing amateurs or citizens report injustice and inflicting it? I do not agree with nations like China who have completely pulled the access to certain social media networks like Twitter or Facebook, but how do we guard and protect people from potential harm using these applications?

I believe that we should in fact educate both users and corporations on safe usage of social media, and possibly teach certain levels of etiquette. Informing citizens and consumers about agencies which they can report misuse and or dangerous usage of social media would also enable a safe environment without infringing on freedom.

Is social media allowing the world to share information so rapidly that news agencies are going to have to struggle to keep up? However can we trust all the information we have received via Facebook, Twitter or other social media applications? For example, we have all received the spam mails discussing how someone saw a post on Facebook and committed suicide or something similar.

Overall, I believe that the ability to connect with other users, and have them respond whether they are politicians or someone with similar views is an amazing change in our history. Applications like Facebook and Twitter are creating an online record of our history as it happens. We can now mediate our politicians, report on life altering events, or protest wrongs without printing a magazine or writing a book. I think the changes in our history will continue to be profound.



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