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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Social Media and Politics


Malaysia had its 13th General Election (GE13) on 5th May 2013 and saw the country once again ruled by the Barisan Nasional, extended its 56-year rule for another 5 years with majority of 133 seats in the 222-members parliament. On the following day, Malaysians were actively on Facebook, tweeter and blogs commenting and criticizing the results from the GE13. Many shared their happiness and some were angry due to their parties lost in the election. Nearing the GE13, we saw various unsavory cyber election campaigns among the parties involved for the GE13.
The quick development of social media have impacted on how it can influence the society is part of the advancement of information and communication technologies. Also, the quick development of mobile technology has impacted on the creation and use of social media. A modern, well-equipped smartphone is sufficient enough to become a packet-sized mega studio.
With the power of social media and mobile technologies, it has changed the way people communicate. Engaging with social media is a communal activity, therefore its best that everyone who use it understand that influencing social media is much more diverse and difficult task than working with traditional media. The following points out the key changes that social media produced adapted from the study of “Social Media – The New Power of Political Influence” by SuomenToivo Think Tank (2011):
  1. The anonymity of its agents, which means the use of nicknames or aliases when writing and commenting in social media. Although this enable the “anonymous” to comment on delicate issues which may avoid them from held responsible and can lead to “flame wars”. However, to make message stand out is to use the writer’s real name (for example, in the “Letters to the Editor” in newspapers), since the author wants to be identified as owning that comment. Those who communicate need to be able to appear with their own names.
  2. Social media provide the richness and diversity of information to its users. Which they are no longer dependent on a single source for their news and other data any more, but can choose to use several different media side by side. The media is then used to modify and rearrange contents gathered from other media as remediation. Also connected to this changed information environment is the fact that it is not possible to participate in every conversation. 
  3. There are no isolation places or hiding holes. Lives of society’s most influential figures have become a public space. Many of their private and public conversation was taken out and used in media on the Internet.
  4. Speed is the demand for the information to be ready for use. The speed can caused to reports that might not be true or inaccurate without any confirmation. Users become “over-connected” and cannot process new information adequately due to haste.
  5. The lack of hierarchy in social media caused multitude of roles and assumptions of relationships among each other. A good example is the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, which have no main editor, but an army of tens of thousands of writers, inspectors, and editors. Complaints could not be made if there are inaccuracies found at Wikipedia.
  6.  Social media able to combine different kinds of recorded information in very flexible ways which are combine all than just text, pictures, audio, video and animation. Anyone now can easily create and edit impressive presentations with affordable software and the use of video cameras, sounds recorders, laptops and other mobile devices.
  7. Realization of traditional methods of regulations is becoming more difficult than ever. A government can attempt to restrict the content of social media, but traditional censorship cannot keep up with ever-changing web pages. China and Saudi Arabia, for example, tightly control their citizen’s use of the Internet and social media. On the other hand, it is technically difficult to interfere in even in the most radical web-distributed propaganda.

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