An evolutionary catalyst for change – social media has played a pivotal role in catapulting the world into a highly sensitized digital age, where even a single utterance creates the perfect unrestrained chain of events: negative and positive.
Indeed history is repeating itself. What the invention of paper and proliferation of vernacular literature was to the Renaissance, the World Wide Web and social media is to the modern age! The notion of unsurpassed freedom of expression, lost somewhere in translation, is now subtly seeping through the social fabric of society. And by tapping into the immense potential of the voiceless millions – billions even; these societal platforms are becoming increasingly powerful.
It seems the world as we know is drawing its last breath, as a new perception of dual existence takes shape: the physical and virtual realms of reality. Moreover, the unprecedented proliferation of tools of connectivity and communication are steadily empowering communities at large as well as the individual. This is internet activism and it is all about mass engagement. Awareness and advocacy – serving as alternatives for viable information dissemination – have played a pivotal role in mobilizing public opinion; in some cases even toppling governments. More power to the people by the people?
In their book, ‘The New Digital Age’, Google’s Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen opined: “Throughout history, the advent of new information technologies has often empowered successive waves of people at the expense of traditional power brokers, whether that meant the king, the church or the elites.”
Believe it or not but social media has metamorphosed from merely being an entertainment instrument into a ubiquitous arena for political activity and (possibly?) progressive thought. This colossal power can be put to good use for the betterment of society: empowering women through social interaction and learning, raising voice against injustice and encouraging positive youth participation in democratic national activity.
However, this brave new world is still at a stage of infancy. Good news is more opportunities in terms of innovation, bridging of the digital divide and widespread political change is definitely on the cards. Bad news is: it is an unbridled force of power and its transfer from the state to the individual can go either way. The real question is can this agent of change lay a solid foundation for a positive socio-political culture or will it convert into yet another tool of oppression?
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