Role of Social Networking Sites Towards Social Change Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 9 January 2017

Role of Social Networking Sites Towards Social Change

Social Networking Sites (SNS) is a group of Web sites that provide people with the opportunity to create an online profile and to share that profile with others (Barnes, 2006). The top ranked SNS in India are Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Orkut, Google plus, etc. Besides electronic media, print media, Mobile phones and e-mails, SNS occupy a large space in every individual. When the first social networking site (classmate.com) was created in 1995, it just acted as a mere friend finder which helps the user to find their old friends and build relationship. Later looking at the huge success of networking sites hundreds of sites were created all around the world. Orkut was one of the famous SNS in India. When the traditional media is subjected to certain restrictions and pre-censorship in certain countries, the new media offers complete freedom of expression.

When the mainstream media questions central or state’s functioning against people it is subjected to restrictions. Though a very few media provide unbiased news, most of the Mainstream media are owned by corporate companies whose priorities are celebrity issues, cricket, inaugurals of showrooms, commercialized entertainment, sensationalized talk shows and so on. SNS allow individuals to share their views and opinions. Apart from restrictions and censorship, individuals can share photographs, videos and links related to the social issues which can add volume to their views and also as a justification.

Individual SNS users act as an opinion maker through networking sites. People those who follow them or in their friends circle comment their views on the posts. As it is networked the status update is shared by friends and friends of friends too. A medium is considered as an Alternative medium only when it notices the unnoticed, hears the unheard screams, expresses the feelings of marginalized groups, questions the authorities and challenge the biased mainstream media. No doubt social networking sites does all. It also serves as a source for the mainstream media. It helps to form communities, organize people together, changes the government.

Social networking Sites

Social Networking Sites (SNS) is a group of Web sites that provide people with the opportunity to create an online profile and to share that profile with others (Barnes, 2006). The top ranked SNS in India are Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Orkut, Google plus, etc. Besides electronic media, print media, Mobile phones and e-mails, SNS occupy a large space in every individual. The reason behind is most of the colleges, universities and work places are bonded with internet. Social Networking succeeds in a big way because it directly interconnects individuals and provides opportunity for us to design our own space. They help individuals to connect with their friends, family and even with strangers. These sites act as a platform to express our views. It also helps us to built and form communities of similar tastes. “Social networking tools give senior leaders the power to communicate instantly and with great regularity and consistency with globally diverse teams” (Elaine Varelas, 2010)

When the first social networking site (classmate.com) was created in 1995, it just acted as a mere friend finder which helps the user to find their old friends and build relationship. Later looking at the huge success of networking sites hundreds of sites were created all around the world. Orkut was one of the famous SNS in India. After 2006 the concept of Facebook became a great success followed by twitter and recent Google plus. These sites can be used as public blogging, resource sharing, reflecting one’s views on any social issue. These sites pave a way for freedom of speech and expression. They can share what happened around them, with their views; find followers and likes for their updates.

Freedom of Expression

According to the Constitution of India Article 19 refers to freedom of speech and expression. With no other law or article for media, article 19(1)(a) says that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which means the right to express one’s feelings and expressions freely by writing, painting, printing, spoken words or any other mode. Also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. According to UDHR Article 19 says that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

When the traditional media is subjected to certain restrictions and pre-censorship in certain countries, the new media offers complete freedom of expression. When the mainstream media questions central or state’s functioning against people it is subjected to restrictions. Though a very few media provides unbiased news, most of the Mainstream media are owned by corporate companies whose priorities are celebrity issues, cricket, inaugurals of showrooms, commercialized entertainment, sensationalized talk shows and so on. They hardly cover the common man’s sufferings and even if covered poor facts make the issue seem worthless. Thus by ignoring the human rights violations at different levels a common man suffers, media is moving far away from people centered issues. Many people who are with sources but doesn’t get a right platform to express themselves because of gatekeeping process. Most of the human rights violating issues are also neglected in many mainstream media. So there is an urge for an alternative medium which brings out all the social issues around the world.

Networking sites – a platform to share

For many years, technology research overlooked the role of the user as a significant variable in studying technology and media. Influenced by early mass communication theories, such as the hypodermic needle model, media users were studied as an undifferentiated mass audience. This theory suggests that mass media can shoot messages at an audience and can have a universal, homogeneous effect on them. (Wimmer, R. D. & Dominick, J. R. (1994).

SNS allow individuals to share their views and opinions. Apart from restrictions and censorship, individuals can share photographs, videos and links related to the social issues which can add volume to their views and also as a justification. Through networking sites people can be organized, form groups, communities etc. Networking sites offer various options and settings which can be a good one for discussions and opinion forming.

Recent trends in Social Networking Sites towards Social Change

This century’s most popular revolution began at Egypt on January 25 which brought out the importance of social networking sites and the power of Tweets. It is strongly believed that the fall of Hosni Mubarak was because of Twitter and Facebook. “….the Egyptian revolution took off more quickly, spread to more people, became more universal, and scared the heck out of a dictator more effectively because of social media. Social media didn’t cause the revolution, but it was essential to its success” (Josh Bernoff)

Libya also became liberated from Muammar Gaddafi, the de-facto ruler of Libya. Social networking sites bought an end to Gaddafi’s “freedom, socialism and unity”.

Srilankan Tamil genocide on 2009, millions of people was killed in Srilankan war. Thousands were sent to refugee camp. The Srilankan media cleverly censored the war killings in their media and several other international reporters were sent back to their countries from Srilanka. But, news, photos and videos from war fields were uploaded via blogs and networking sites by fellow refugees, victims of war. They spoke about the cruelty of genocide. This brought world nations’ attention to take action against Sri Lankan president at international court for genocide and war crimes.

The Jammu and Kashmir state government banned Short Message Service (SMS) service in Jammu and Kashmir realizing that it was the medium through which people were communicating and spreading information across. But Facebook and other social networking sites have largely nullified the government’s plans……. “Kashmir Unrest”, a community page created by a student user, has around 600 members. The user has made passionate appeals on the page to take the campaign against rights abuses to international level” (Adil Akhzer). The photos of the atrocities, clashes between the protesters and army personnel, video recording of the cold blooded murders received worldwide coverage.

According to Khurram Parvez, coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, “They (government) are monitoring whosoever writes what, with traditional Kashmiri media dominated by the official Indian viewpoint and public meetings and protests banned, young people in the disputed Himalayan region have turned to social media to “make their voices heard in the world and to share information”.

Social networking sites

• enable individuals to share them with friends

• enable people to see how many others share their perspective.

• enable people to coordinate activity and get the word out about protests, social issues.

• enable people to comment their views on their friend’s posts and retweet it.

SNS as opinion makers

With the help of SNS an individual can become an opinion maker. People those who follow them or in their friends circle comment their views on the posts. As it is networked the status update is shared by friends and friends of friends too. With the help of SNS so many issues such as Lokpal bill, Mullai periyar dam gained national attention.

The Jan Lokpal Bill, also referred to as the citizens’ ombudsman bill, is a proposed independent anti-corruption law in India. Anna Hazare’s fast was successful in mobilizing the support of thousands of people in the virtual world of social media. Hazare had over 500,000 mentions through status updates and comments across top social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter in the country.

Social Networking Sites have become one of the status symbol among youth film promotion is a successful marketing strategy. “One can create a discussion forum on the internet as opposed to other forms of marketing where the information is open to only being seen and consumed. The interactivity factor on the internet leads to exponential popularity for a film”(Nabeel Abbas). Filmmakers create fan pages on websites like Facebook, Twitter, blogs, by building special official websites as well as by tying up with networking sites like Zapak and Ibibo, which offer various customized applications and games related to a movie.

Social networking sites – promoting human rights issues

When there was a very strict gatekeeping in media on certain issues, the mainstream media have to edit or eliminate issues from the news room. So those issues were kept on eliminated for decades and decades. Media also prioritized their TRP’s and crossed out many of the issues. These filters increased whenever the society faces a problem, the people discussed what media says, but they are never given a chance to reflect their views as Mainstream media acted as a one way medium. There was a very less feedback from the receiver side and it was hardly reflected.

Social networking sites and blogs act as a platform for the citizens to express their grievance and criticisms either in public or within their friends’ circles. As the network sites enables the user to choose their circles through which their updates, photos or videos can also be shared by their friends.

Conclusion

A medium is considered as an Alternative medium only when it notices the unnoticed, hears the unheard screams, expresses the feelings of marginalized groups, questions the authorities and challenge the biased mainstream media. No doubt social networking sites does all. It also serves as a source for the mainstream media. It helps to form communities, organize people together, changes the government.

People must be aware of the power of social networking sites. As the coin has both sides SNS are also unenthusiastic in some cases. The posts, tweets etc are an individual’s opinion about some issue. All those updates can’t be taken as a valid proof. They reflect the particular individual’s opinion on some issues. People must have media literacy and real sense for proper utilization.

According to Comscore, a marketing company, India is the world’s seventh largest social network site visitor in 2010. It has been growing as a giant alternative medium due to the accessibility of new medium. SNS can’t be compared with Mass Media, but when the (SNS) mediated group communication grabs the attention of the mainstream media it becomes a powerful social medium. Non- professional writers and common people also show much interest on sharing their views on social issues especially on human rights issues. Apart from writers, journalists and intellectuals, women especially house wives use networking sites. They share themselves, find similar survivors. SNS can also be used as a medium which rejuvenates people. “People feel that the internet is the only democratic medium available,” (Khurram Parvez).

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