The Power of Social Media in 2011

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Charlie Brooker’s first instalment of his Black Mirror television series has left the general public wondering, how powerful is social media?  Have we now become Big Brother?  Proven through various events which have occurred over the last few years, it seems social media and the power of the keyboard could be changing the outcome of certain experiences in the modern world.  Young Academic looks at the development of social media and the affect it is having on society.

Certainly over the last year, it has been proven just how fast and far information travels thanks (or is it thanks?) to the evolving world of social media.  Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and the hundreds of thousands of blogs on the internet are gathering pace and growing in popularity as the general public realises their potential.

Without a doubt, the power of social media has had an effect on the way news is intercepted and reported.  Take the London Riots for example: Twitter and Facebook had a huge impact on the story as it allowed the general public to connect and share their experiences.  Of course, it wasn’t all good.  Rioters used the social networks to arrange riots and attacks thus spreading them further across London and other cities across the nation.

In the modern day, we turn to social media when anything influential occurs as a way of sharing our personal experiences and tell our stories of how events panned out.  Providing the public with a tool to connect, to reassure, to help, social networking seems to have no limits.

Before 2011, social networking sites were for just that: reconnecting with old friends, organising mass flash mobs and becoming fans of various celebrities.  Now, social media is so much more.  Twitter hashtags, Facebook groups, YouTube videos and Flickr streams have been employed by the masses to voice opinions.  It seems representatives of discontent can now communicate to each other.  In 2011, social media equals a collective (and powerful) voice.

Take the racist woman on the tram last week.  The viral video – named My Tram Experience – shows a white woman racially abusing Black and Polish people on a train from Croydon to Wimbledon.  The video, which is extremely uncomfortable to watch, sparked millions of tweets on the subject.  The hashtag #mytramexperience was the top trend on Monday and soon the video had been watched million of times.  Later that day, following outrage from the general public and many celebrities, the woman, later named Emma West, was arrested.

Pre-YouTube, pre-Facebook and pre-Twitter, how would this incident have played out?  Maybe she would have got off the train, some people would have told their friends of the events and that would be the end of it.  Now, in a world where the public’s voice is loud and heard, the authorities must pay attention to the outrage which permeates the nation.

Understanding social media, the general public is now armed with the tool to demonstrate and spread their opinions.  What we must remember is that many of us now carry cameras with us with at all times, whether they are attached to our mobile phones or not.  No longer do we live in a world where Big Brother is always watching us, now we too are Big Brother.  Each of us is under constant scrutiny by the general public.  Step out of line and you could end up being the next top trend of Twitter.

Ultimately, social media can be good or bad.  Good: we tell our story, we all listen and tell our friends.  Bad: we tell our story, there is mass outrage, everyone tells everyone else and there is an arrest, a riot, a death.

The riots proved this theory.  Yes, violence was detached from the original cause and the riots spread further afield but it also aided in the persecution of thousands of participants who were videoed or photographed and posted on the social networks we have at the end of our fingers.

The 21st Century has become known as the age of social media.  Social networks permeate every facet of our lives and it is changing the way we protest.  Social media plays a huge role in our communication on a societal level and it is scary to think about how far it is indeed going to go.

What is your view on social media?  Do we carry more power than we should?  Have your say by sending your stories into [email protected]  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest student fashion, entertainment and education news from Young Academic.


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