We live in an age now where anyone who has a smartphone at his or her disposal is free to have an instant audience of millions. Whether it be through Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchap, WhatsApp, Twitter or any other platform, the full power of social media is there to be harnessed by all. Indeed, there are those now who are considered to be influencers of society, starting or stopping trends by the very power of their like or dislike. As never before, we are all given a voice — but whether we are listened to, or whether our points of view are valid, remains moot.
There’s now doubting the power of social media, and its role, say, in influencing the events of the Arab Spring, or in election campaigns, if not fully understood, are at least being assessed by analysts, researchers and political and communication scientists. But for teens, who have grown up on a constant diet of alerts, chats, instant communication, videos and memes, there is a danger too that they may take the content at more than their face value — and whether through cyberbullying, the instant popularity or shunning on social networks and by peers, the negative influence of social media can be both perturbing and disturbing.
All too often — and we have seen businesses, organisations and government entities forced to send out disclaimers and work hard to set the record straight — the rumour mill on social media can churn out material that can spread like wildfire, with myths and mistruths suddenly being accepted as if they were true.
Perhaps we are reaching the stage where social media platforms may indeed have to be regulated or at least curtailed in some form.