Social Distribution of Media
By Izhar ul Haq
It’s an agonizing end to a promising start of what could have become a new era in Media. The thought that social media has proved itself to be an end to all the ways that Mass Media has been used to set the agenda – as Dr. Max McCombs and Dr. Donald Shaw theorized – of its audience’s discussion to mentally order and organize their world, engineering public opinion with their selective perception based upon sensationalism and propaganda for their corporate interests has proved itself nothing but an illusion. The same web, made with corporate fiber and coated this time with the color of free speech has been stitched to seize every individual at a leisurely pace.
Examining the definition of Social Media stipulated by Oxford dictionary appears as: “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” Do we really see such creation regarding news and current affairs promoting a social way of disseminating news through this phenomenal mechanism? The social media is a world of mass media where a few large media brands still control most of the media output and thus the conversation is always made around the topics that they choose. Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein clarified social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” But what we see here are very few people writing blogs or producing any type of media these days, people seem to prefer clicking a “like” button, or re-tweeting someone else’s content which manifests that it most definitely is not social media but it can rather be properly called as ‘Social Distribution of (Mass) Media’.
Permit me to explain.
Looking back at the history of Phrase Right to know, Social media proves itself the product of that continues struggle made to demolish that vacuum erected against the free speech, by Authoritarian states – the Greek-Roman societies – and on to the 16th century, continues struggle to liberate the flow of information, continues struggle to let us know the actual dissemination of information up till realizing Social responsibility in this regard. Its emergence added a new chapter in information history itself by handing over the power over opinion to every individual. Through its unique intra-personal communication design, it has made the best possible approach to spread information right from those hands of the society where the news or information has originated and tried to claim to be the reason of this biggest shift that journalism is no longer the exclusive preserve of journalists.
Really? To what extent?
A Yahoo! Research report 2011 found just 20,000 elite Twitter users produce 50% of Tweets (Twitter had 150 m users at that time) – which sounds very mass-media -. And has estimated about 10,000 of those users are journalists Tweeting about their stories. according to a new report by the Pew Research Center, in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, nearly one-in-ten U.S. adults (8%) get news through Twitter, and In addition, a separate Pew Research analysis of conversations on Twitter around major news events reveals characteristic that: “Much of what gets posted centers on passing along breaking news where the conversations do not necessarily track with public opinion.” Even twitter founders such as Biz Stone says “Twitter is more about consuming media via shared links rather than people creating original content in the form of Tweets”.
Facebook (another social media tool) is also trying to make progress in its metamorphosis from a purely social platform to a news aggregator. A Pew Research 2013 Center survey of more than 5,000 Americans revealed that one in three users check the network for Headlines and 22 percent think it’s a useful way to stay on of timely updates. Around 78 percent of respondents could be considered news opportunists because they mostly see timely content when they’ve gone to the site for another reason, most likely talking to friends or checking for personal updates. According to Pew Research, because of the mass media links on facebook; around 42 percent of the people who said they read headlines on the social network also watch local TV new programs and 21 percent continue to read print newspapers to stay on top of breaking stories and then share it ahead behaving like an online newspaper selling hawkers!
Sharing Mass Media engraved a question mark on Social Media’s motto “creation and exchange of user-generated content” asking to describe what the social media really is? That’s not as compelling as the original promise of social media, and its implied challenge to the powerful owners of mass media.
Weren’t we, the people, back in charge through social media? Hadn’t we done away with the “gate keepers” of mass media?
On the other hand, The social responsibility and ethics for disseminating news and information on which all the journalist around the globe agreed upon in mid 20th century has put a question mark on Social Media because of its absent regulation, responsibilities and practicing ethical values. From cyber bullying, identity theft, harassment to enabling the spread of unreliable and false information, these are all serious downfalls which has even threaten human lives and here, according to Arianna Huffington, “it’s everywhere – and it’s going to be even more everywhere.”
So coming back to my previously posed argument of calling social media as social distribution of media, the concept is however explained considering various researches like some of them cited above which showed that how social media is again used by organizations that had controlled the flow of information before (News Agencies like AFP, API, UP, Reuters which has control over 85 percent of the flow of information). What people Tweet and post on Facebook, and the large number of links that people share are Invariably the links which belong to the same Media Organizations – Mass media, that has left no choice for the people to use media for gratification of their own needs because all the content even if it is on the screen of our television, on the front page of our newspapers or in the screens connected to the world wide web are the same. It seems that the term Social Media need to be retired and if, the links that most people share belong to large media organizations then the real way it needed to be called is Social Distribution of (Mass) Media.