The Power of Social Media

I think it’s safe to say that most people around us frequent at least one social media platform on a regular, if not daily, basis. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, WordPress or even Snapchat, the prevalence of social media in our daily lives is indisputable.

Now, social networking gets a lot of criticism surrounding how it is negatively impacting our generation and undermining all the conventional/tradition aspects of communication and language. The social media bubble which encloses us all is slowly creeping into children lower and lower down the age spectrum: children at the age of six or seven being provided with mobile phones and learning “text talk” before they can read a children’s novel. I recently heard about a 12 year-old girl who didn’t understand why the hash tag symbol (#) was invented before Twitter was…

Then comes the argument over privacy. With the safety of communication methods constantly questioned in the press: the phone-hacking scandal, controversy surrounding potential government surveillance via social media or the questionable problem of photo copyright ownership once a photo is uploaded to the internet. Companies such as Snapchat have faced huge criticism under the allegations that they allegedly store the photos which their application-users have sent. On top of that, recent surveys have shown that Facebook has been cited in as many as one third of divorce cases in the UK; worryingly it is very easy to imagine the variety of Facebook-related reasons why this statistic is probably reasonably accurate.

As a 20 year-old student I have multiple social media applications installed on my phone which I can access when I’m away from my laptop. I will freely admit that I probably somewhat fulfill that stereotype of a typical young person who’s mobile phone appears to be a natural extension of their hand. However, the eye-opening experience of university has, for me, revealed the power of social media far beyond the petty lives of young teenage arguments and instagram-filter selfies.

Over the past year and a half I have witness the impact of social media on university campaigns as organisation platforms for students to discuss and co-ordinate information and action for causes they believe in. For more university specific campaigns we have recently witnessed the Union Officer elections for the next academic year which involved a week of campaigning where social media platforms were vital to spreading candidate manifestos and rallying support. On a national university scale, UEA is one of many universities throughout the country campaigning to stop the government privatisation of student loans. Their use of media outlets – Facebook, Twitter and petition website (change.org), has rallied hundreds of UEA students not only to protest but providing everyone with the knowledge and understanding of what the government is proposing: https://www.facebook.com/DefendEducationUEA

On a much bigger scale, most people across the UK have heard of the viral Facebook action of recent weeks in aid of Cancer Research UK: the #nomakeup selfie. This internet phenomenon raised over £2 million for the charity; can we really fault social media when it provokes such mass action and is utilised successfully for such a worthy cause?
http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/mar/21/no-makeup-selfie-campaign-facebook

The world is moving into the online sphere with the emphasis on magazines, books, documents, emails, applications and so much more all moving from paper to online. It is an undeniable shift which must be acknowledged, accepted and utilised to it’s maximum potential. With evidence of the proven power of social networking, is it any surprise that as a student, I am turning to these social media outlets in order to create support or let my voice be heard on topics I’m passionate about? Is it any wonder I’m hoping it’s creative power will attract the attention of employers for prospective work experience? With the prospect of thousands of CVs to troll through, is the future of job application turning towards the power of Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr? I don’t know. But the resonance that social media platforms can create is enough evidence for me, which is why I’ve taken up the initiative. If something is so powerful as to get people noticed, why should I not utilise that power and that creativity to exhibit myself to all the possibilities that it has to offer?

Helena Bradbury

Sources:
http://www.theguardian.com/media/socialnetworking
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/06/facebook-divorce-linked-i_n_3399727.html
http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/defend-education-uea

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