New media consists of various forms of media that exist as a result of the invention of the Internet and the increasingly widespread use of smartphones. Some forms of new media include video-sharing websites such as YouTube and podcasts. Perhaps the most used form of new media however, is social media.
Social media has become a vessel of information for everybody and anything you publish on it is capable of affecting not only your life, but also the lives of those who read it. Sharing any piece of news or information on social media is a matter of a few simple clicks and what you say will be out there for the world to see. That’s it. Such is the power of social media.
News spreads fast at an uncontrollable rate when it is shared on various networking websites because there are no boundaries to how far it can go. This incredible speed at which information spreads can sometimes be a disadvantage.
A clear example of this is the disturbing rise of ‘fake news’ – that is to say news which is factually inaccurate. Widespread usage of the Internet has made it incredibly easy for ordinary people to share events that are happening around them. In recent times, however this has began to create a serious problem where information which is not necessarily accurate quickly spreads across the Internet due to its viral nature. This can create a huge problem where people are misinformed. At best, this can seriously damage a person or organisation’s reputation and at worse it can lead to widespread panic and chaos such as a false bomb threat or mass shooting.
On the other end of the spectrum, information spreading quickly can be also used to to great advantage to society in general. This is because attention can quickly be drawn to certain issues and separate individuals can easily transform into large, organised groups to act on these issues.
One example is how information spreading via new media allowed for the Arab Spring to happen. In countries like Tunisia and Egypt where traditional news outlets such as newspapers and TV stations were under heavy censorship, the people took to social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to discuss the realities of life in their country. It was through this same platform that citizens organised demonstrations and protests against the government, coordinating their actions and gaining widespread popularity from people all across the country with access to the Internet. In the end it was this enabling feature of social media – to be able to reach out across last physical distances nearly instantly – that caused the authoritarian governments in these countries to be replaced with democratic ones.
In conclusion, there is no denying the speed at which information spreads via social media. This is an incredibly powerful thing and with all powerful things, can be used for both good and bad purposes.