When Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg first created their respective social media websites, little did they know it could (and has) lead to reform, reinvention and revolutions. Twitter, Facebook and all other sites housed under social media’s benevolent roof has not only created a platform for friends to catch up with each other and to follow their favourite celebrities, but has also become a means of pervasive information and communication. Social media has shaped political movements–given a voice to those who never thought they could be heard, and has given a global community to support a cause.
I remember scrolling through Facebook last year and seeing some of my friends in France “check-in” following the attack in Brussels. This feature–which allowed friends and family on Facebook to see if someone in particular was safe–became a useful tool which can be used in times of crisis. I remember scrolling through Twitter and seeing #StrandedInTheUs: a hashtag used in the States for French citizens stranded in the country who needed a place to stay. #PourteOuvert was also trending which provided a safe location for those in France, gaining 1 million tweets. Social media became a powerful support system for people who felt scared or alone–the world grieved with France.
Social media “demonstrates our common humanity across cultural differences. It connects people, their ideas and values, like never before,” Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay and CEO of First Look Media wrote in Huff Post. Social media demonstrates that the democratic form of communication we have come to rely on should never be taken for granted–especially when certain countries have state-controlled media. Korea and China are major examples of this, detaining and imprisoning bloggers; this action alone speaks loudly in how powerful of a tool social media has become. If the state fears something, then you know there’s value to it, you know that it can threaten the very existence of the state. A key example of this is Arab Springs. With uncensored, raw footage and the use of Twitter, citizens were able to bring down a dictatorship. Even in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, social media accounts are heavily used to organize protests. Social media, in a way, is helping the world become more democratic.
Written by Pia Araneta