Social media has long been praised as a tool for democracy – and it’s not difficult to see why.
Before social media was popularized or even really established, there were few ways for the average layman to really make waves in the nation. The media was often controlled by the few corporations lucky enough to have a handle on it, and therefore often carried the political biases of whoever owned or managed them. Even if media platforms did want to remain wholly neutral, the current government would sometimes still carry some sway over how certain things were represented – and therefore democracy could be said to have been stifled in the old ways of media management.
While certain media forms like television and film are still owned and governed mostly by few large corporations, the onset of social media introduced something entirely new to the game – the ability for the average individual to voice their political concerns and opinions on a platform that could potentially be seen by millions just like how social media is shaping political campaigns. Now, suddenly, it seems no voice is completely silent – with millions of users and social media companies Malaysia online able to publicly speak their minds, it suddenly seemed as though democracy had itself a new platform on which to flourish.
Still, the notion that social media is completely in service to democracy is not entirely correct. Like most things, social media can be said to be anyone’s weapon – both a bane and a boon, depending on who wields it and how it’s wielded. Therefore, to really answer the question of whether social media promotes or impedes democracy in a political sense, we first need to consider both sides of the equation – and therefore all it’s accompanying arguments.
For Democracy – Social Media Let’s Anyone Speak
The most popular argument for pro-democratic social media is the belief that it lets anyone ‘speak’. As briefly mentioned above, social media is an utterly free platform to which millions frequent on a daily basis – therefore, every time you post something, you have the potential of being seen publicly by a huge online audience. Gone are the days in which the media was in tight control of larger corporations and their internal biases, and gone are the days in which laymen could only grumble their dissatisfaction between friends or in the shadows; barely stirring the waters of change.
Now it seems that whenever someone has a grievance about something, whether it’s something as large as social injustice or as small as not liking Sonic The Hedgehog’s live-action design, people are free to voice their dissent publicly, to make it a trend, to make a difference (such as the Sonic The Hedgehog redesign being motivated by very, very harsh online critique). Furthermore, blossoming companies are also free to use social media to market their brand into global awareness, either by themselves or by hiring the best social marketing services in Malaysia and top social media companies Malaysia in KL.
Against Democracy – Social Media Reflects The Biases Of Its Owners
On the opposite side, there’s an equally popular argument that social media, rather than being a platform for millions to freely speak, actually also reflects the biases of its owners. In other words, speech on social media may not be as ‘free’ as one may think – after all, social media is still governed by their own respective owners, with their own internal biases and political opinions, and there have been instances in which certain people have been banned for certain comments (despite not violating any regulations), or have not been banned for certain comments (despite having violated certain regulations), due to what seems to be an internal bias of the platform owners.
For Democracy – Social Media Allows People To Be Educated
Another common belief is that social media allows people to be properly informed of certain news. When outlets like TV and paper news media were the only sources of information, it was incredibly easy for the owners to inject their own agenda and propaganda into the news they spread (also known in media theory as the Hypodermic Needle Theory) and therefore lead the public astray. Now, however, with millions of potential witnesses and insiders posting their personal sides of the story that differs from the mainstream, it is significantly harder for any form of misdirection or missing information to remain hidden from the public. Therefore, people can be informed of truer accounts and therefore make better decisions for both themselves and the future of their nation.
Against Democracy – Social Media Allows The Spread Of Misinformation
However, there is also an argument – and evidence – that social media can conversely be wielded to the opposite effect. Due to the easy-share nature of social media, there have been cases in which authoritarian governments or large-scale corporations have still managed to inject false news into social media channels under the guise of authenticity. While know-better samaritans often try to counter the news with their own true arguments, once a post has gained traction and been shared over the Internet millions of times, even that counter-argument can become buried in the crowd; leading to more and more people seeing it, believing it, sharing it, and beginning the cycle anew.
There are many different arguments online as to the true nature of social media; whether it’s a boon or a bane, an ally or an enemy, a tool to promote democracy, or a weapon used against it. Ultimately, it seems both cases can be true – and while social media can be used as a powerful service to democratic values, it can also just as easily be wielded against it. Therefore, regardless of what you may personally believe, everyone should still be mindful of what they see every time they log online.