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Social Media: The Good, Bad and the Ugly, Explained

There are around 4.55 billion active social media users globally.

A Year in Longding District of Arunachal PradeshSocial Media: The Good, Bad and the Ugly – By Nyatum Doke |  Victor Hugo said, “No power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come”. Today, this power is “Social Media” and this age is the age of social media. There are around 4.55 billion active social media users globally. Social media has democratized the way in which information is shared and disseminated. It has led to participation of the people in the governance of the state. At no point in the hitherto existing history ‘public opinion’ echoed so loudly and vehemently. Social media has the power to harbinger revolution as experienced in many parts of the world- any idea can become a global idea; any issue can become the issue of the masses- it’s just a matter of one click on the keyboard or the on mobile screen.

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Thinkers like Habermas put forth the importance of a “Public Sphere” for true growth of any society; social media provides the much-needed public sphere for discussion, debate and the discourse. social media is helping people to move from being ‘vita-contemplativa to vita-activa’ i.e thinking man to man of action which according to Hannah ardent makes a human complete. Social media changed human life in many ways and has penetrated into every aspect of life. Its positive impact can be seen in various social, political and economic dimensions.

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However, the ‘bad’ side of this platform is, “there is no permanent friend or enemy in social media” as I would say. At one moment it may make someone a hero and at the other moment the zero. Also, another problem is that of “infodemic” so much information is available flowing at high speed that it becomes difficult to understand which is true or false- a recipe for spreading misinformation and disinformation.

Then, there is the issue of ‘filter bubble’ as coined Eli Pariser and the ‘echo chambers’ that is created in the social media. Filter bubble “is a state of intellectual isolation owing to personalize searches, a users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoint”. Th echo chamber effect is dangerous as it echoes back only the same perspective repeatedly and blocking the exposure to other perspectives. So, people get to see what that wish to see and they believe whatever they are seeing is the most important issue at hand.

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Basically, it looks as if people have given the consent but in reality, according to Noam Chomsky those are “manufactured consent” and the manipulated public opinion based sometimes on micro targeting. The point is we think that we are getting more choices but most of the time our choices are limited and being decided by the surveillance capitalism. As someone has correctly said “if you control the menu, you control the choice, you control the choice, you control the behaviors.”

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The ‘ugly’ side of the social media is when the touted harbinger of change becomes the tool of cyberbullying and trolling by faceless identities. When the masses start acting as “superfluous entity” instead of a rational being and starts bestowing more trust on social media sites then on organs of the governance it may leads to what is termed as “Banality of Evil” (normalizing negative usage)- which would not augur well for the democratic set of the country.

Social media definitely have revolutionary potential and with the increasing digital penetration its reach will further expand. However, it should be kept in mind that it also has the ability to cause irreparable damages to the individual as well as the society, if not used carefully. Specially, in a state like Arunachal which is in a transition stage from traditional to modern> we are a classic case of a Prismatic society (Riggs)- modern institutions may have been introduced, but our way of life, understanding is old and traditional to a great extent for a majority of people. Let’s use social media as a tool to provide ‘voice to the voiceless’ and as an instrument to democratize our discourse- thereby, ensuring freedom, transparency and openness.

(The writer is DIPRO Longding)

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