The Impact of Social Media in the 21st Century

In the 21st century social media has been the game changing phenomenon within communication. This has been enabled by the number of internet users having grown from its initial moderate low millions to more recently low billions (Shirky 2011:1).

Today people and organisations remain connected and updated through various forms of social media networks and we are surrounded by Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs and microblogs to mention only a few. From a development perspective it is nowadays easier for individuals as well as groups to create movements and voice themselves, for both the good and the bad, and it is partly our purpose as C4D students to discover ways that social media can be utilised for positive, sustainable and resourceful communication outcomes.

In more recent days we have, and will continue to witness activism being developed through social media sphere.  Even where networks are monitored or restricted by governments bodies, social movements and civil uprisings have taken place by the help of the above mentioned communication means, seen in for example the Arab Spring and the Kony campaign that went viral on social media in 2012. And to further support the great impact of Facebook in modern society, according to the Sydney Morning Herald the social network has now got over 1.23 billion monthly active users, with 80% of these users residing outside of North America (Sharma, 2014), however by also emphasising that today, ten years into its existence, one of Facebook’s main threats are the apps that have been born through the era of smartphones and mobile internet (Sharma, 2014).

On the other side to the convenient ease of social media exemption applied to regions yet faced with technological and economic challenges and/or governmental censorship issues. Although the internet has had a considerable effect on activism Cammaerts (2007:220) means that the main constraints of the internet is still unfortunately accessibility and fragmentation amongst users. Some state that the answer to activism is balanced proportions to the online and offline activities undertaken between organisations, particularly to establish trust which Cammaerts (2007:221) supports by stating that it is in the interaction between the dichotomies that empowers the organising, mobilising and debating resistances. A very good point encouraging the reinforcement of conventional communication methods, however the question stands how long lasting those offline methods will remain for the long haul with the rapid development of technology worldwide, taking into c

onsideration that regions currently suffering by lack of technological advancements will eventually most likely catch up. Shirky (2011:1) points out that the networked community indeed has access to a greater range of information subsequently leading them to voicing up and undertaking collective action – certainly being a wider aim to work towards within C4D.


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