The World Wide Web removed the social, political and economic limitations of communicating with people all over the world, created new job and business opportunities and democratised the media. The Internet also paved the way for social networks like "Facebook," "Twitter," "MySpace," "YouTube" and "Flikr" to capitalise on this mass information exchange by providing organised forums for people to network based on common interests. There are both advantages and disadvantages to the social networking trends that dominates our time in the 21st century.
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Advantage: Democratization of Media
With social networks providing a popular forum for information exchange, "the media" has become synonymous with "the people." During the height of its popularity, "Twitter" became a reliable source for first-hand news where the general public became instrumental in reporting the news first, such as the Hudson River plane crash in 2009, and mobilising revolutions, such as the political protests in Iran in 2009. Social networks allow more people to freely participate in the news media and act as an effective watchdog over institutionalised media.
Advantage: Organizational and Governmental Transparency
Social networks allow organisations, governments and the people to hold an information exchange with their supporters or criticisers to provide first-hand, personal commentary. The information shared with stakeholders through sites like "Facebook," "Twitter" and "Flikr" allows them to communicate directly with these governments and organisations and hold them accountable for their actions. Furthermore, with boundaries between nations removed, societies are able to act on behalf of others and enact change where they see fit.
Advantage: Fostering Personal Relationships
With travel becoming increasingly less expensive and more people able to relocate to different cities or even countries, it can be difficult to keep track of all of your family and friends. Social networks allow a continuous two-way conversation between you and your family and friends wherever they are in the world. Facebook is a good example, as its functionality includes status updates, photos and messaging so you can connect one-on-one,or passively partake in a relationship and still know where your friends are and what is happening in their lives.
Disadvantage: Overlooked Content
In an environment where "everybody is a journalist," great content on the Internet gets overlooked. While the democratisation is a positive step for maintaining the accountability of the media, social networks become saturated with news and no filters to determine what is decent and which is not. Social networks have also led to "lazy content" in the forms of videos, blogs and microblogs where readers, not knowing any better, will take opinion as fact and ultimately end up ill-informed.
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- Compassion in Politics: Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media and Web 2.0; 2008
- Read Write Web: Democratization of News Media; Richard MacManus; 2009
- Telegraph Online; New York Plane Crash: Twitter Breaks the News, Again; Claudine Beaumont; 2009
- Time: Iran Protests -- Twitter, the Medium of the Movement; Lev Grossman; 2009
- Communica: Media and Democratization in the Information Society; Marc Raboy