Regardless of its original purpose or aspirations, there is no doubt that social media has changed the landscape of social and political activism. As its popularity has grown amongst both renowned and everyday users, so too it has developed a wider range of tools to assist professional and organized applications rather than the mere basics of social interaction. This evolution has seen social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter become perfectly placed for those without authority to voice their opinions and plan group collaborations and organized protests.
From Humble Origins
Undoubtedly, Facebook has set the prevailing trends in social media, and is the model from which other similar outlets take their leave. From its clear and humble origins as a social mediator and connector of faded friendships, it has mastered the tools of remote interaction before stepping authoritatively into the interwoven worlds of business and politics. Considering that it has only existed for over 5 years, this evolution of its services has been both swift and exceptionally well directed.
Twitter has adopted a similar patter on growth, and has broadened its appeal both in terms of available services and its user demographics. While initially considered something as a novelty consideration endorsed chiefly by celebrities and renowned entities, it has become a viable medium for the whole of society to share their thoughts, activities and concepts of enterprise. Twitter, like Facebook, has taken great strides to lend itself to the needs of corporate and political groups, and now forms the basis of many successful business marketing and government campaigns.
What these similar paths of expansion represent is a common shift in emphasis, from outlets designed to reconnect contemporaries to ones which allow individuals and groups to reach an unfamiliar global audience. This change inevitably makes social media more appealing and viable to those who spread both corporate and political messages across a diverse demographic of people, whether they are issued in support or opposition of a particular concept. There have emerged as the perfect tools to give a voice to the masses, and ultimately stand as the modern facilitators of democracy.
The Freedom of Information
These social media outlets and informational resources like WikiLeaks are now massively influential in empowering citizens and enforcing the principles of democratic rule, and this is evident through various historical incidents. Whether you cite the civil protests in Moldova in 2009 that were aimed against an oppressive rule, or the recent activism supporting political reform in Nigeria, these examples were all organized and undertaken through social media interaction. Not only this, but sites such as WikiLeaks have also served to apply the values of the freedom of information among tax paying citizens, and given practical meaning to the very notion of democracy.
This idea of enforcing the principles of democracy is significant, as it is the unique and revolutionary tools of social media that do just that for an often silent proportion of society. Certain factions or regimes of US government have at times being accused of delivering a distinctly undemocratic administration, especially with regards to those who epitomise the virtues of free speech on sensitive social or political issues. This has led to the feeling that democracy is sometimes undermined as little more than a collection of idealisms, which are paid lip service to by those who run the country.
However, as social media has evolved to give a voice to citizens and means through which to share their message, it has developed a reputation as a genuine and practical representation of democracy. A remote and online media that connect millions globally, it is to be considered the ultimate evocation of freedom, and creates a boundless medium for like minded individuals to congregate and share their political ideals. Above all, it urges political powers to enforce the values of democracy in their own regime, and not merely recite them as clichéd ideology.
A Continuing Evolution
Of course, given the ever rapid progress of change and vast scope of social media’s adaptation in its short existence so far, it is difficult to predict where social media will find itself next. Although it is likely to remain a valuable tool in the disciplines of social and political activism, its nature and short history suggest it is will continue to evolve to meet new and diverse requirements. Another issue is its longevity, and although it is boundless in terms of its function to connect people, it may be less so with regards to its applications in a fast moving contemporary world.
For now, however, its significance continues to grow and even gain new footing amongst different social demographics. As more and more members of the older generation get to grips with the tools of social media, so too it has been used to give a voice to homeless individuals in different programs operated throughout the US. This improved diversity means that it is now affords a foundation for everyone in society to have their say, which is perhaps the very purpose of a democracy in the first instance.