Social Media Decoded: Beyond Likes And Love

Social Media Decoded: Beyond Likes And Love

In the highly diverse landscape of today, one of the phenomena reshaping the world is the use of the internet where social media forms the backbone of the major activities on it. Social Media has revolutionized the world and with the rapid and vast adoption of such technologies has led to finding partners, accessing information, or demanding a political change. The arguable beginning of the social media can be traced back with MySpace being the first to reach a million monthly active users in 2004. Since then we have come a long way, which had made our lives to revolve around the social media, from the way we get the news to the way we interact with our loved ones. There is no denying of its role in business, education, politics, entertainment or travel. It's unavoidable, it's powerful and it's here to stay.

Monday Morning surveyed the NIT Rourkela Janata about social media usage and its impact on their lives. We begin with an analysis of the survey on its usage, taking you through the key trends in social media with its pros and cons. We also interviewed Prof. R.K. Biswal of Humanities and Social Science Department who has been researching the effect of Social Media. 

The advent of the social media boom in the early 2000s opened doors to possibilities that were received both sceptically and otherwise. While business, marketing, workplace entities were the first of the domains to extensively use emails and social platforms to commercialize, it might as well be the inception of Facebook that started the process of globalization right from every other house. Twitter and WhatsApp soon made texting and information sharing easier and fun with the incorporation of privacy terms. The indispensable aspect of the growing usage could be credited to the ever-improving multi-media inclusion across all these platforms.

To begin with, we would like to show the reach of Social Media in the whole world:

A look below would give an idea about how social media moves our world.

THE BIG CONNECT!

Our takers from the survey wrote,

Social media has become an integral part of our life. Honestly, we have pretty much become slaves under social media. We can't even think to start our day without the involvement of social media. If we think from another perspective, apart from addiction, of course, we are connected to social media in every other way in our daily life.

Well, data has become our world. Fast processing computers and even faster means of networking mean we now connect across rooms, cities, countries and continents (interplanetary coming on the way!). A small example with the NIT Rourkela Janata as stakeholders; most of us who live miles away from our homes and stay connected with our friends and family daily (which is also forgettable at times). This doesn’t seem extraordinary anymore because of how social media has been imbibed in the lives that make us overlook its critical aspects. However, when it comes to a soldier miles away from his family or an astronaut miles away from home, imagine their gratitude on being able to video call their kids and schedule chats with their spouses or siblings. What’s more important is the least expensive way of staying connected with followers and friends. This big connect brings close celebrities (we swoon over) and fans, parents and kids, students and teachers giving windows to glimpse in the other person’s life and thoughts. Another taker of the survey summed up developing interpersonal relationships on social media.

It definitely has been creating an impact on interpersonal relationships. It is a great medium to stay in touch with everyone and almost everything around the world but it's just being used excessively. Mainly the fear of missing out on stuff is what bothers me and keeps me from checking the social media apps, be it updates related to academics or social life.

We asked our users about their reach on social media based on the number of people they are connected to through social media:

THE RIGHT TO EXPRESSION (CREATIVE AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING)

Social media boom today owes to the fact that it could provide a base for keeping forward one’s thoughts and opinions. Free speech has extrapolated to a new ‘public square’, thanks to the sturdy interfaces social media platforms provide. Today we see blogs on cooking to artforms, YouTubers with all sort of content that sells, Instagram and Pinterest that run dedicated pages on generic and special artforms and writing blogs etc. Free speech and expression have created a stir on social media time and often. One cannot forget that social media was the very cradle that borne movements like #MeToo, Save Rainforests and even witnessed both liberal and radically driven campaigns (political, social and environmental). Facebook and Twitter especially have been known to poll and survey opinions during mass movements and elections and also nominations of featured movies, songs that eventually found themselves at the helm of success. The enforcement of expression has led people to hold opinions without interference. But the only vice we face today is that this right has just not been extrapolated but exploited as well as we see further.

Speaking about vices that are at times uncalled for, social media also abounds in idiosyncrasies for some while appealing to the rest; certain people and organised pages that mean to showcase ‘dope’ tales and popular humour do not exactly seem to fathom the fine boundary of humour and humour at someone’s expense. In such a scenario, one often wonders is it essential to vouchsafe one’s ‘forced humour’ to draw attention even though it is untimely, unfit and unworthy or simply ignore the ignorance. 

Our survey shows that 27% of the students of NITR use Social Media as a platform to share their creative content and get feedback.

EXPRESSION THAT HURTS

The concept of free speech and expression, as times progressed, soon found itself entangled with forms of hate speech and harassment. Monday Morning’s survey showed a whopping 74% agreeing on facing harsh scrutiny and judgemental bullying on social media. Undeniably, the figures do not seem to change if we take a sample space of the entire population. Be it popstars or homemakers, hate speech has been known to engulf many and try them on public courts. A lot of debates take place on censorship and privacy policies of social media. Convictions and in general lifestyles are subjected to obscene remarks that at times users fail to know the limit to, in the name of criticism. This, in turn, becomes a thread and we can seldom fathom its effect on the subjected person, emotionally and psychologically.

In the absence of regulations that do not exactly censor language on social media, it becomes easy to post sensitive content at the displeasure of a person. India, itself is a large hub of throwing obscene language and hate speech. Flares rise on topics ranging from politics, national and international issues, personal blogs or posts. At times, while criticism feels the right thing to do (and need be done), it is the manner and method that isn’t kept in check. At such situation, we can aptly ask ourselves, have we lost our sense of better judgement and empathy to social media?

NO PUBLICITY, NO GAIN

Publicity and public announcements through social media are a daily cup of tea for the NIT Rourkela Junta. Our fests and club agendas do not function unless we heavily post (and spam!) stories and posts. Thanks to social media, we have a medium to garner an outreach to propagate our ideas and creative projects. The importance of publicity and advertising is especially felt during fests. Participations and responses have a direct correlation with how we use social media for positive publicity. Our survey also records 62.6 % people agreeing to use Telegram to convey official messages while rest aren’t either sure or do not agree. This has been a direct medium to reach the large populace of students and administration, however, the absence of discourse to any policy of announcement is felt.

Undoubtedly, the business world thrives on marketing on social media. With globalization underway, the world is increasingly shrinking. So, unless we keep up and develop on optimizations, we won’t be able to establish connections. Our programmes and policies need to be seen and we heavily rely on social media to gauge the feeling.

Have an opinion: Court of public opinion

Social media had widely influenced the public’s opinion in court. It refers to the use of news and social media to gain public support for one or the other side in the court case. It can ruin a good business or spoil the reputation with enough public support. We have trusted the legal system, that anything wrong happens, it would deal with it in the legal ways and solve the case. However, the court of public opinion works on the massively shared information in media which mostly affects the high profile cases and the person is declared as a criminal among the public even before the trial. With no credibility of the information circulated there is no, public support comes to one side the person is declared as the criminal. In various cases, it led to mob violence, and the legal forces couldn’t handle it, causing the death of many. However this brings pressure on the system to proceed with the trials and the justice must be given to the victim, with forcing the better quality investigation for the cases.

Cyberbullying

With the prevalence of social media and digital forums, individuals can often be viewed by strangers as well as acquaintances. With the integration of social media into our lives, content sharing – both personal or public opinions- creates a record of the activities, which is accessible to others. This gives rise to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying includes sending or sharing harmful or false personal or private information about someone else which causes embarrassment or humiliation. Cyberbullying can harm the online reputations of everyone involved – not just the person being bullied, but those doing the bullying or participating in it.

A post-graduate student, who did research and interned at NUS, Singapore on cyberbullying activities as part of her project, Suyashaa Rao, said

A lot of research is centred around cyberbullying today, in the majority of social sciences and psychology studies. These studies suffer from systematic biases due to limited sample size, geographical region, and method of analysis. In this respect, Systematic reviews are powerful tools to present the accurate picture, It was surprising how sparse was research based on Asian countries. During the literature survey, I couldn't find out a review that emphasized the problem of cyberbullying in South Asian countries. So in my research, I have made a systematic analysis of cyberbullying perpetration and victimization in India, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia.

She further adds up,

There has been plenty of reports that have attributed the incidents of cyberbullying to various external factors such as age, gender, etc. Indeed, if we can identify the cause of cyberbullying, we can help to mitigate the effect. One of the primary observations which I had was there is an apparent lack of awareness of how critical the issue. Together with this, there is the effect of gender and internet usage. Active mediation from parents and teachers is required but to a maximum extent. This is tricky since excessive intervention can have detrimental psychological effects. Together with this, gender biases also serve as significant effects in cyberbullying. Ironically, we have also found a significant correlation of cyberbullying with the frequency of internet usage. With all this, in view, I firmly believe the solution to the widespread problems in cyberbullying doesn't require rocket science rather a systematic and careful approach to study the causes of the phenomena.

On the view of its effects, Prof. R.K.Biswal said,

One of the main reasons someone becomes a perpetrator of the cyberbullying is when he wants to ventilate his depression and negative emotions through social media and take revenge. And radially the person is grabbed by the perpetrator and gets bullied. Because the identities are not known, immediate action is not taken when the person files a complaint, which includes directives and incentives. This can correct the behaviour and cause an incentive to the person is who is being bullied and also punish the bully and stop them from doing cyberbullying and spreading hate on social media.

We asked the students of NIT Rourkela if they have ever experienced cyberbullying and the result was alarming:

Social media and Meme culture

The new big thing among teenagers nowadays is memes. Nowadays there are millions of memes on the internet related to any topic, event or idea you can name. The memes have grown so much popular among youth that some agencies are paying money to individuals who make memes.

Memes have so much potential in them that internet now chooses to spread the information through memes over other the forms of mass communication. Many groups have now started considering memes as the major medium of communication and publicity. For a close example, many memes were released a week before Innovision- the technological fest of NIT Rourkela to show the popularity of the event to rope in more and more students to participate in the event. Like this, many political and professional agendas and discourses have been popularised through memes. But the question arises whether this is a good or bad influence on the teenagers. In the adolescent period, a person is mouldable and easily influenced. Consider a scenario where an individual, who has no prior information about the topic, sees a meme about it. Now he will get a perception about the topic which is being conveyed by the meme which can be opposite or different from what the topic is actually about. So this is a very dangerous way of spreading any rumour, hate or even start a revolt targeting mainly the youth of the country and the potential seems unmeasured considering its growing popularity.

Also to see the reach of memes among NITR students, the survey showed that 58% of the students use social media platforms to see and share memes which is a big number. 

We caught up with Prof. R.K. Biswal about the influence and addiction of social media on teenagers. Here is an excerpt from that interview:

Monday Morning(MM): How good or bad is the influence of the glamorous life of celebrities for the teenagers?

R.K. Biwal(RK): Adolescence is the time of identity formation for a human being. And children tend to get influenced by what they see and show some behavioural fluctuations. And since we made them the celebrities, teenagers don’t find anyone else as a role model in their life. Then they start doing all the things that a social media star does like smoking, drinking, partying and more because, from their perspective, that is right. There is an opposite side of the story that they don’t get to see.

MM: What are the signs that show that a person is addicted to social media?

RK: The first thing we observe is the increased screen time and reduction in the time given to other activities. And once someone starts giving less time to academics and physical activities, we can see the effect in grades and physical health of that person. Another thing which shows that a person is too much influenced by social media is reduced social and emotional skills.

MM: How can a person overcome social media addiction?

RK: First that we need to do is to control our impulse to use social media. To control that, we can make some changes in our lifestyle like not recharging the data pack on our phone. We form our social groups in which we will meet and have fun in real, not in the virtual world. We need to replace the time given to social media with actual socialization.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND MENTAL HEALTH

Our survey had an array of opinions about addiction that comes with social media. The cause of addiction and its nature also seems to affect our mental health. A hideous aspect of social media lies in seeking validation from followers and friends. When we tend to be idle, we fall back on social media to pass time and sometimes this becomes a routine. Unconsciously, we submit to spending almost half of our day browsing feed or in other words glimpse through windows that social media provides at a stretch. So, when we find ourselves lacking the validation we seek or if addiction and its cycle becomes paramount, our mental health has to face adverse effects. We develop a fair share of insecurities and real-time developing relationships is replaced by relationships brewing in the virtual world. Research and opinions suggest a feeling of loneliness and anxiety that are often marked from developing insecurities through social media.

Prof. R.K. Biswal adds,

Social Media is something which is deteriorating both- the mental health and physical health of children. Most of the teenagers are victims of cyberbullying and go through a lot of mental trauma. The initial aim of social media of connecting people has been put aside and now we are promoting things more than connecting people. Many problems like Attention Seeking Behaviour and poor academic performance have evolved among teenagers. Along with that, physical health issues have also come up due to this. As people now spend more time in front of the screen, their physical activity has reduced and people are becoming obese at a very young age and obesity is the root to most of the diseases like Diabetes, Cholesterol etc. Other than that, social media also affects the Social and communication skills of a person as human interaction reduces once we start interacting on social media.

While social media campaigns for positive reception and battle against depression, we cannot overrule the inhuman nature of social media. Students taking up our survey said,

It is quicksand that people entered without knowing that it is quicksand.

Another student shares, 

It started as a resource for filling spare time and turned out to be something one cannot leave even during busy times.

Their usage has been extremely increased among youth today. Instead of doing any physical activities people spend most of their time on social media, which affects the health badly. Our survey shows:

The time every user spends on Social media daily:

 

We asked users if they feel they are addicted to social media or not and the result was surprising:

It's necessary because it helps us to stay up to date and also to share posters of important events in our institute to attract people. But to get addicted to it and to attach your self-worth to the number of likes that you get for some post is dangerous and vain on your part.

SO, SOCIAL MEDIA, A BOON OR A BANE?

Social media since its inception has given us a sense of identity and fulfilment. For NIT Rourkela junta, as some students point out our involuntary tendency to fall back on Facebook, WhatsApp or Telegram for any sort of update, information or leisure or even the smallest of things like sharing of class notes. On a world basis, we have people derive a livelihood from social media. The entertainment industry sustains on ratification from social media. Business and globalization close in on social media. What couldn't be denied is the growing toxicity of thoughts and steadfast ideals that encroach on that of others. On one hand, social media drives human rights campaign while on the other hand, the same social media crushes them under cyber-crimes. 

These are some more takes on Social Media by NITR Janata:

The number of people tapping into the previously 'untapped' potential of social media is increasing. Volume of people spreading misinformation is also increasing. Question is, can these two counteract each other's effects in some way? That would solve most of the problems of social media.

Another one shares his/her opinions on social media and relates it to the daily life of a student:

How often on a winter morning have you wished you didn't have class? And then you slept over, woke up and found your CR texting in the group "Classes are cancelled". That's what you call happiness;
Or maybe your CR couldn't cancel classes. You open one eye, text your friend your roll number with one word:"Proxy", and then you happily crawl back under your blanket.
How can you imagine life without social media now? It is like electricity. It is impossible to stay in the dark, even though people did once upon a time.
There are downsides to social media though. We are youth in our early 20s. We have gained voting rights very recently. We have the right to have independent political inclinations. I have been abused on Facebook before for my convictions.

Regulations and censorship seem to be a radical step but adherence to basic policy and private rights of these platforms comes as a part of the responsibility on behalf of every user. The world can’t afford to look backwards and needs stepping up to become a global village; However, humanitarian aspects that search for its voice on social media is not expected to follow boundaries. Therefore, labelling social media, a bane or a bane, is subjective to time, place and action. What is obvious is that social media has managed to break the upper ceiling of every societal and political issue so far. With that humongous tank of information and subjective content, we both benefit and lose. Ultimately, it is our choice to let the genie free or contain it!

How does Social Media move your world?

Let Team Monday Morning know what you think of social media usage in the comments below.

 

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