Social media is a necessary evil

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Added 16th July 2018 10:35 AM

It is a valuable communication tool with others locally and worldwide, as well as to share, create and spread information.

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It is a valuable communication tool with others locally and worldwide, as well as to share, create and spread information.

By Norbert Musisi

Social media is defined by its interactivity, connectedness and user-generated content. The different social media platforms include social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Viber, Skye, Hangouts, SlideShare, Google+); Micro blogging (Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr); Photo sharing (Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest); Video sharing (YouTube, Facebook Live, Periscope, Vimeo, iTunes). Perhaps the most influential social media tool is the social networking sites.

In today’s society, the use of social media has become necessary for daily social interaction and access to news and information and decision making. It is a valuable communication tool with others locally and worldwide, as well as to share, create and spread information.

It is no secret that social media has, and continues, to re-define the global landscape. Social media has often been looked at as a platform for communication and engagement between users, but it is drastically evolving beyond that. The benefits that brands, users and the global economy can harness from social media are immeasurable. The social media has several positive outcomes of this digital gold rush and it is fuelling economic growth worldwide.

These social networking sites have increasingly grown beyond personal use. Recently, employers have begun using social networking sites to examine the background of their prospective candidates, as well as to host interviews via Facebook or other social media technology tools. Groups can schedule virtual meetings or brainstorm together even when they cannot physically meet. Today, social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor are one-stop shops for job seekers to find information that was previously unavailable

Social media has enhanced availability of information and data representing tremendous opportunities, especially in a professional capacity. The power of social media’s support and proliferation of user-generated content has helped create more transparency in the job market through sharing of individual experiences with others, as well as their thoughts on day-to-day functions or other information that may be of interest to a hopeful job seeker. This transparency has led to widespread improvements in the job market, such as fairer pay and more efficient hiring, which, in turn, leads to the betterment of employees through sharing salaries, benefits, positive or negative experiences, etc., online.

While the internet has made it possible to connect with people around the globe, social media has created a reason for people to want to connect. Its presence has gone beyond the basics and has empowered brands to expand borders and reach a global audience with a single post. As today’s consumer spends up to nine hours per day online, social media has proven to be the most effective way for businesses to reach new audiences on a global scale. Brands can also cross-promote content to reach users at multiple touchpoints, which becomes even more important as the role of social commerce continues to gain popularity with brands selling directly through social networks. Social media, by nature, allowed (and still allows) two-way communication between the brands and the customers. Social media allows customers to react to what brands offer without having to listen to any of the hype that has always been a part of traditional marketing. Reviews and blogs are posted constantly describing colleges, restaurants, products, companies, etc. Some people have learned to rely on these reviews to make their decisions.

The health industry is already using social media to change how it works, whether through public health campaigns or virtual doctor’s visits on Skype. It’s also helped groups of people, such as patients suffering from the same condition, stay in touch. Social media has been responsible for relevant changes in both personal and community health, especially by making it easier for large numbers of people to rapidly share information.

The largely symbiotic relationship between the government and traditional media that were the gatekeepers of information has been radically disrupted by the concurrent rise of digital technology and the social media ecosystem that it enabled. Civic participation and engagement has been transformed with social media. Social media allows citizens to be the source of ideas, plans and initiatives in an easier way than ever before. In the future, we can expect more and more leaders to embrace this type of transparent governance, as it becomes easier for them to interact with their constituents. Whereas politicians and government officials once had to travel to interact with citizens, now online WhatsApp and Twitter strengthen the connections between them, while providing a platform for direct input on government initiatives.

Content shared on social media has increasing potential to be used as evidence of wartime atrocities and human rights violations. The videos shared are potential evidence that may one day be brought before an international court that could help in verification and forensic reconstruction by prosecutors and human rights advocates. The capacity for social media to bring together disparate but like-minded people is also helping fight another enormous challenge of climate change. Social media has become an important tool for providing a space and means for the public to participate in influencing or disallowing environmental decisions historically made by governments and corporations that affect us all. It has created a way for people to connect local environmental challenges and solutions to larger-scale narratives that will affect us as a global community.

Social media provides real-time insight into the lives of people around the world. As a result, when major accidents, incidents and illnesses occur social media is often the first to know. The information which can be used by the relevant and concerned authority to make an early intervention. Top news stories are being broken via Twitter and other social networking sites and people worldwide are made aware of them almost instantaneously. The power of social media has allowed our society to be much more knowledgeable of worldwide affairs and news.

The possibilities are seemingly endless for social media. It is uncommon for people to go a day without using or referring to social media. Whether it is used for communicating, learning, or decision making, social media is here to stay and will continue to affect our society. However it can also be misleading if not used sparingly.

The writer is a lecturer of Petroleum Geophysics at Nkumba University

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