Essay Topic : Social Media & Its Evils
Quotes by famous personalities:
- “Social media has played a key role in democratising our discourse” – Narendra Modi
- “Technology and social media have brought power back to the people” – Mark McKinnon
- “The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people” – Jon Ronson
- “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind” – Jim Morrison
- “Connectivity is a human right” – Mark Zuckerberg
- Year-2008 saw the election of Barack Obama as the first black President of USA. However, his rise was accompanied by the silent rise of social media – Twitter, Facebook – which played a major role in influencing people. A similar story, but in another year – 2014, for another leader – Narendra Modi and for another country -India
- During 2010, there was widespread discontent against autocratic regimes across Middle-East often referred to as Arab While discontent wasn’t new, what was new was the Social media and its power. Social media played a huge role in mobilising people who were demanding democracy and voice in decision making.
- #MeToo campaign on Social media against sexual harassment and assault, became a global movement and helped in demonstrating the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.
- The war for Net Neutrality in India wasn’t fought on any ground, water or space but on Social Media. The support on social media finally led to government confirming the principle of net neutrality.
- Connectivity and communicating form the basis for sharing, learning, debating and discussing
- Beginning from the ancient times, they have been an integral component of our lives, our society. They not involve direct modes like talking, sending letters etc., but also indirect modes like – performing arts and non- performing arts
- Hence, it is of no surprise that human beings are often referred to as social animal
- However, the content and means of communication have not remained static. They started with Pigeon post, moved on to postal letters, then to telephones and now to smart phones and social media.
- Interestingly, Social Media is not only changing how people communicate but also what people communicate.
- As of today, social media is becoming an integral part of our life. Our days starts with checking and updating our social media accounts and ends on a similar note.
- However amidst all these, there has been growing reception and debate on the problems and the challenges of social media.
- In common parlance, Social media is seen synonymous with Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, LinkedIn etc.
- However, social media goes beyond this and has a much more broader It is an umbrella term and, refers to websites and applications that enables users to create, share content, interact and to participate in social networking.
- This interaction can take many forms, but some common types include:
- Sharing opinions, links of third parties, photos, videos and posts
- Public updates to a profile, including information on current activities and even location data
- Commenting and rating on the photos, posts, updates, videos and links shared by others.
RISE OF SOCIAL MEDIA – WHY?
- Social media has often been described as the silent revolution of the 21st Recently the total number of social media users crossed 3 billion with no sign of slowing down.
- But why is the Social media so popular ? Why is it becoming indispensable ? Why is it becoming the first choice for almost everything from news to governance; from buying and selling goods to mobilising support for social movements?
- Some of the factors:
○ USPs of Social Media
- Speed; Ease of use; Flexibility; No User fees (Most of the social media applications don’t charge any fees for registration or usage); All it takes is a click to send, post, share and receive information.
○ Digital Penetration and applications
- Number of Indian internet users have already reached 500 million with their number increasing day- by-day. In addition there has been a proliferation of social media sites and applications
○ As a marker of Social status
- Social media has emerged as a marker of social status with people increasingly sharing their pictures, videos and personal information. Increasing number of comments, likes, followers have become a status symbol; Rise of social media celebrities.
○ Rising urbanisation, individualism and breakdown of traditional social structures
- Owing to rising urbanisation, individualism and breakdown of traditional social structures like family etc. people are becoming lonely, isolated and emotionally insecure
- In addition, owing to rising expectations, growing ambitions without adequate resources leads to people being branded as ‘losers’ leading to anxiety and frustration.
- In such a scenario, social media along with the option of being anonymous becomes a safety valve for people to vent out their frustration without the fear of being judged. For e.g. Increasing popularity of Blue Whale Challenge game was more among children who were isolated, branded as ‘loser’.
WHAT HAS SOCIAL MEDIA DONE?
- The introduction of social media has changed the world in may Today, Social media has penetrated every aspect of human life and society. It has connected people live never before.
- Accessibility through smart phones, tablets, computers, and other mobile devices has made accessing information and connecting with people just a touch away. It has made the world stronger and a better place to live in. Some of the prominent benefits -:
● Politics and Media
- As a tool for political campaigning and advertising; as a tool for eliciting opinion of people on schemes, initiatives, legislations; as a tool for policy implementation and monitoring; as a tool for enforcing transparency and accountability; as a tool for mobilising support for political movements
- Examples – Role of Social media in winning elections for Barack Obama, Narendra Modi etc; MyGov.in, a portal by government for taking feedback from people; Arab Spring – Social media had a huge role in mobilising support for the Arab Spring.
- Social media has made massive, unprecedented changes across all forms of Twitter and Facebook have emerged as major forums for news. Social media has given rise to Citizen journalism. Social media is now being touted as the 5th pillar of democracy.
● Social Issues & Media
- Have helped in making people more tolerant, aware about other’s beliefs, culture ; Broadening of mental horizon;
- Have enabled people to maintain contact with families, friends, relatives. etc.
- Aided in giving voice to voiceless like Women, Black people in USA, Tribals
- Have helped in enhancing the reach of delivery of education,
○ Examples – #Metoo Campaign; #BlackLivesMatter; Khan academy; SWAYAM
Economy & Media
- New source of employment – Every organisation now has a separate social media department; As a tool for feedback for companies – Concept of PROSUMER; e-Commerce; Boost to start-up; Digital Marketing; Enabled even remote handicrafts
- Examples – e-Commerce; Startups; Patanjali Ayurved Limited has made huge impact through social media; Dettol’s Global Handwashing Day social media campaign.
- Ecology & Media
- Social media has also enabled people to become more consciously aware about environment and environment protection.
- It has propelled the rise of the independent For e.g. During Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf Coast residents used Facebook and Twitter as platforms to share and provide independent or alternative new sources and media that was captured by their communities.
- It is also being used as a influence and and encourage support during specific For e.g. Greenpeace targeted Shell Oil operations in the Arctic Circle using social media; Rise of European Green Party (EGP) to a large part is attributed to social media activism.
- #WorldEnvironmentDay and #EarthDay became global trendsetters and helped in raising awareness about environment; Mobilisation for protests against Sterlite Plant in Tamil Nadu were led by Social media.
● Ethics & Media
- Social media has become a means for free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 of Indian constitution; Social media given voice to the voiceless; Right to Internet is now being gradually recognized.
- For e.g. UN had made Internet access a human right; Recently Supreme Court has declared Right To Internet Access as a fundamental Right Of Every Indian;
SOCIAL MEDIA – ITS CHALLENGES
- Digital penetration in India still continues to skewed against rural areas, women, lower class, etc.
- In addition, there is serious lack of digital literacy and social media application in Vernacular languages.
- Social media has put a huge question mark of privacy of E.g. Case of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica where personal information of users was being traded for monetary gains.
● Challenges to internal Security
- Social media has also enabled radical and terrorist groups to promote radicalisation, recruit people and distribute their literature; Issue of Lone-wolf attacks who have been radicalised by these literatures
- For e.g. ISIS has successfully used social media
- Fake news has emerged as a major problem for law enforcement agencies. For g. Cases in Kashmir;
- Exodus of people from North-eastern region from Banglore because of fake news.
Psychological and Health Problems
- Problem of social media addiction – Facebook addiction disorder; Studies have found that it social media usage triggers more sadness and less well-being.
- Problem of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out); Continuous comparing our lives with others has been found to be mentally unhealthy; Has led to problems of Jealousy; Also social media is making it tough for people to engage in prolonged concentration.
- Live-streaming of suicides – New phenomena of live streaming of suicides by teens has emerged on social A series of reasons have emerged for such a phenomenon – To get their name in the media; To get attention; As a response to growing isolation where suicide is considered as a statement.
○ Physical problems
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affecting hands or wrists because of too much typing; Eye problems;
- Fatigue – Because of too much use of social media and lack of requisite sleep
- Lack of exercise – Social media is making people especially children, lazy and immobile by cutting duration people would otherwise be spending outdoors or
- Distraction – One of the most dangerous potential consequences of social media addiction is driving while being distracted. For e.g. A number of road accidents are happening owing to usage of mobiles.
● Commodification of public life
- Social media has led to commodification of life where every aspect of life is being open for public consumption. The line between private and public life is no more clear. For e.g.- craze for selfies, location updates on Facebook, etc.
- Problem of Cyber crimes, cyber bullying, cyber abuse, trolls and law enforcement
- Social media has emerged as an avenue for cyber crimes like cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking.Cyber- bullying, Identity theft, piracy
- In addition there has problem of trolls where people have been subjected to incessant For e.g. Recent case of Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj being subjected to abuse.
- Law enforcement is another challenge in Social media because of the speed at which information spreads, problems of identifying perpetrators of crimes and lack of cooperation from social media websites like Facebook, Youtube, Whatsapp etc.
● Problem of Fake News and Propaganda
- Fake news such as rumours of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s death, during US elections, closure of messaging app Snapchat etc. have caused emotional setbacks, reputational damage, monetary losses and brand image crisis.
Social media has also become a tool for propaganda; Emergence of websites, social media accounts etc. which are funded by an organisation with an agenda like, damaging the reputation of a brand or person, spreading hatred or violence, influencing voters during an election, creating noise around a subject, and so.
REGULATION ISSUE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
• Regulation of Social media presents a very common dilemma of attempting to balance between right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under article 19 and restrictions to it as enumerated under article 19(2).
• There is no explicit provision in India regulating Social Media.
However, there are series of laws which do regulated content on Social media -:
o Information Technology Act, 2000 – Social networking media is an “intermediary” within the meaning of the act and is liable for various acts or omissions that are punishable under the laws of India; Section 79 of the act mandates that if there is some objectionable material on a site then there is ought to be action within 36 hours of the offence being pointed out.
o Indian Penal Code (IPC) – Promoting Enmity Between Groups On Grounds Of Religion, Race etc. (S. 153A), Defamation (S. 499), Insulting The Modesty Of A Woman (S 509), Criminal Intimidation (S 506), Sedition (S124-A), Defamation (S 499 and S 500) etc. can be invoked against content on social media.
• Recently, the Supreme Court observation on regulating social media has triggered a fresh debate on pros-cons of regulation of social media.
• Will help in censorship of posts related to religious fundamentalism or radicalism and help in averting any danger to peace and societal cohesion.
• Will also aid in preventing terrorists from spreading their agenda or giving shape to national security threats
• Will help in censorship of certain content which is vulgar or misleading may be essential for keeping it away from the reach of Children.
• It can be used as an excuse to mute the voices of dissent and constructive criticism.
• It can subvert creativity in the name of morality, sedition or blasphemy.
• It can restrict a person to fully express his views (Peaceful) and violate his Fundamental right to speech.
• It risks into creating a repressive and intolerant society without democratic ideals.
• Government is finalising a policy which is aimed at keeping a hawk’s eye vigil on the social media to check if it is being “misused” to conspire against India and spread anti-national propaganda.
• Government is also planning to put in place a regulatory framework for social media and online content.
• The way forward must be to strengthen privacy laws, better law enforcement and secure active cooperation of social media sites and application.
• In addition, there is a need to spread awareness about the possible misuses of social media.
UPSC 2017 – “Social media is inherently a selfish medium”
● Social media today has emerged as a double-edged sword. While it has transformed the way what we think, believe and act, it has led to violation of privacy, problem of trolls, fake news etc.
● These volley of problems has called for regulations and restrictions regarding social media. However, regulating social media is not only desirable but also not possible. It is the uniqueness of social media that is self regulating:
○ Issues of privacy are being tackled with technology and better laws. For e.g. Privacy with Technology; EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has become a model law for protecting privacy.
○ Fake news is increasingly being tackled by Social media activism and citizen journalism.
○ Social media is itself becoming the means for educating and making people aware of the issues and challenges of social media.
○ While social media is making law enforcement tough, it is also helping in preventing and resolving crimes at the same time.
● The way forward must be to ensure -:
○ Formulation and enforcement of Strict Privacy Law
○ Strict cyber security system and Law enforcement
○ Making children aware of the problems of social media right from the beginning by Parents, Teachers and Society at large.
● The potential of social media is revolutionary. With increasing digital penetration and increasing development of application, social media rise is indispensable. Also, the values of social media like freedom, transparency, openness etc. are innate to human being, part of their social being.
● As Victor Hugo said, “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”. Today, this power is “Social Media”.