Social Media as an influencer of public policy, cultural engagement, societal change and human impact

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Abstract

Traditionally, social media was viewed as an online place where people went to socialise, meet new people, make new friends, share news and experiences, be consoled or celebrate in a virtual context. However, due to its increased popularity, social media sites have undertaken additional roles with increasing importance in today’s society. The majority of social media users are young adults (89% of social networking users fall within the 18-29 age bracket) who regularly use this fora to inform their news, political opinion, consumer choices and social engagement. Social media provides opportunity for all to have their presence noted and their say listened to, which forms the basis of democratic society. However, in true democratic terms, sides can have opposing views, resulting in a dearth of opinion. Controversial items can be streamed via social media that otherwise may not see the light of day on mainstream sites, thus the platform can be used to increase exposure to a wider audience. To this end there has been a surge in enterprise involvement, ranging from ecommerce and consumerism, to charity and education, governmental and political bodies and campaign promoters. In forming a consortium there will normally be two sides, those for and those against. In most countries the leading consortium will be the government, formed from political party election or coalition. At election times there will always be winners and losers, the winners take the leadership role while the losing party(ies) will become a pseudo organism whose main function is to undertake criticism of the government, denouncing abuses of power and highlighting irregularities. Both entities will use media to convey their views and political stances, in an attempt to influence others, the latest of which is social media. However, while government can adopt ‘ownership’ of many media conveyors, for example newspapers can be under the remit and/or affiliated to one particular party, social media is an open, uncensored platform for freedom of speech and expression of interest. This has caused much stress and concern for certain governments (deemed left-hand extremists) who seek to censor the oppositions’ voice by means of media control. Some have been successful in media control (i.e. Chinese government and their tight controls over the internet, Venezuelan and Cuban Governments owning and controlling local TV and newspaper media) while others have decided the best approach is to embrace these tools, for example the U.S.A President Barrack Obama who is considered one of the top five people in the world to have a social media presence with more followers on twitter than celebrities such as Britney Spears, Cristiano Ronaldo and Oprey Winfrey to name but a few. Taking these factors into account, questions arise regarding how influential the interactions of individuals/groups are in forming and informing public policy, cultural engagement, societal change and human impact. This paper aims to show, through case studies, how important or influential individuals and groups become in everyday operations/decisions, how public opinion can sway government policy, how lobbying can be achieved online using social media, and how individuals can be effected by social media influence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International
Pages313-319
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)978-1-910309-28-5
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2014
EventEuropean Conference on Social Media - University of Brighton, UK
Duration: 10 Jul 2014 → …

Conference

ConferenceEuropean Conference on Social Media
Period10/07/14 → …

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