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Where once there was a debate about violent forms of ‘entertainment’ in different sections of media – television, the big screen as well as the gaming arena, social media is the new, threateningly more potent medium exuding a potential of unbridled power that can wreak havoc on many levels.

The post was originally written for LinkedIn and was featured on Pulse: Social Media Channel: To read the full article, click on the Link. Or read below:

In today’s fast paced world of technology, news and information travel at a supersonic speed. Topics are then discussed, deliberated as well as disputed feverishly on the virtual landscape: giving way to argument and counter argument, thus leaving no stone unturned. Social media has indeed played an effective role in empowering the common man, augmenting activism and amassing support for an assortment of ‘causes’. Unfortunately though, there is also a flip side.

Where once there was a debate about violent forms of ‘entertainment’ in different sections of media – television, the big screen as well as the gaming arena, social media is the new, threateningly more potent medium exuding a potential of unbridled power that can wreak havoc on many levels.

In their book, ‘The New Digital Age,’ Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen delve deep into the far reaching affects of digital empowerment that has not only enabled each and every member of society to be taken seriously; they also discuss how both authoritarian and democratic governments are scrambling to find ways of controlling, repressing and influencing populations. Either way, both types of governments are forced to include ‘many more voices (individuals, organisations and companies) to their affairs.’

Traditional media has always followed some code of ethics or let’s just say a framework as far as adopting methods of disseminating information to the public is concerned. One way or the other, it is indeed all about media control, how, in what shape and manner news is distributed. Perhaps the real cause of concern for journalists all over the world is the level of graphicness broadcasted through news and images.

Studies pertaining to traditional channels of information have revealed its desensitizing effects, this may also hold true for new media with its wide array of social networks, including Facebook, Twitter and of course YouTube. Is it really all about free speech and expression or is there something else lurking under the cloak? According to one report published by the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science state: “If film is a drug, then violent film content might make people “comfortably numb” (borrowing the words of Pink Floyd). Specifically, exposure to blood and gore in the media might make people numb to the pain and suffering of others – a process called desensitization. One negative physiological desensitization is that it may cause people to be less helpful to those in need.”

With the rise of social networks and emergence of citizen journalism, the rules of the game have changed dramatically. A report published by University of Arizona states: “At a time when journalists are still trying to closely monitor the amount and type of graphic images seen on traditional media such as television and film, young audiences or the “YouTube” generation in particular, might receive graphic visual images in a far different way.” Web-based readership has increased manifold. Its popularity is primarily due to a constant flow of information, the story mostly being in a raw ‘untouched’ form and most importantly due to its elevated graphic content.

While some may agree that the use of graphic imagery is imperative to show the ugly side of war to derive and draw out a lesson, there are many who think otherwise – and rightly so! In an article published in the Guardian, Carmen Fishwick laments about the unofficial race to break a story. Also talking about lack of censorship in blogsphere especially relating to the Malaysian Airline MH17 crash, she said: “People may argue that revealing the reality of conflicts is justification for posting graphic images. But a lack of sensitivity to the suffering families worries many; they fear it strips away a family’s choice to circulate pictures of loved ones and intrudes on private grief.”

What is more alarming is how numerous extreme elements have also trickled in virtual society and using different platforms either to recruit impressionable followers, broadcast propaganda and most importantly for instilling terror and intimidation.

Indeed these are worrying times with opportunities (negative as well as positive) bursting at the seams. Is it really idealistic to hope that each and every individual can make a difference? Work can only begin at the grassroot level. The question is can we as humans, nothing more and nothing less, align ourselves to the sensitivities of time in the hope of rebuilding broken societies?

Image credit: Free Digital Photos

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3 thoughts on “Social Media: De-sensitising the Human Spirit?

  1. Pingback: Very Inspiring Blogger Award-Many thanks to Marilyn for the nomination | StarkRavingMad

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