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Social Media: Power Without Responsibility?
|by Ananya S Guha|
Today I went for an inter school debate which was on a very relevant subject: 'Social Media has Power but No Responsibility'. The children from different schools of Shillong spoke eloquently on the need to address the misuse of the social media. But, many pointed out that it all depends on individuals using them, for negative or positive reasons.
The recent examples of the exodus of residents of North East India from different parts of the country was attributed to the wanton misuse of the social media. But, as some of the students countered, this is not the fault of the sites, per se, it is the individual who abuses it.
Power was defined as revolutionizing thoughts, such as the anti corruption Movement of Anna Hazare, the insurrections in Libya and Egypt. I think this is a complex subject.
If we say that the media has power, but no responsibility, the questions here are; where does power come from, what is power, and what 'responsibility' does the media networks entail? Does not power and responsibility go hand in hand; Plato's decree that power can be used for the general good holds water here.
Arguing for the motion, means that one has to uphold the power factor, with a denial of responsibility. Arguing against the motion means there may or may not be power, but it certainly entails responsibility. This is difficult and complex, especially for school children, to wind themselves in a kind of tautology.
There are two clear tracts to the debate: Power and Responsibility. Are they exclusive, or should they been seen as two separate strands of thought? Again where does the power and responsibility, emanate from? Is it not from people, is it not from groups, individuals, adults and young adults? Then, the expression social media can include all types of the media: print, electronic, social networking sites.
Social networking sites are also a form of Citizen Journalism, but in Citizen Journalism also there must be decorum, even if one is critiquing policies and views, especially government policies.
This will also bring in the question of the Internet being used to radicalize education. Unless we view the Internet as a powerful tool of social inclusion, including education, it will remain a mere apparatus, a new found toy, to be handled at will. The fact is, that it is a means to a larger end, not an end in itself.
Social media networks can be used for collaborative projects, in social and academic areas of expression. It can be used with sentience for creative writing and art. It can be used for very positive networking fraught with goals that are sensitive, at the end of it all. It is called social media for obvious reasons, the goals are social, not political or personal. It has societal ends in mind. It talks of the impact the Internet has on society, as an ontological and philosophical tool. Can we raise these ends so that everyone has free access to learning and knowledge, social work through an open access to technology, and not to spout venom at others, not to stalk people?
One child made the point of narcissism, yes it has semblances of narcissism which perhaps to some extent or the other, every human being suffers from. Social Media has both power and responsibility, if we see them being unleashed in the spirit of the greater good of the society, in the spirit of a philanthropy, and humanism. Any anti-humanist stance will make us insufferable puppets in its enormous and obese hands!
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