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Day 20 – Q 2. Has social media led to real social empowerment? Critically examine.  

  • IASbaba
  • July 2, 2020
  • 0
GS 1, Indian Society, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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2. Has social media led to real social empowerment? Critically examine.  

क्या सोशल मीडिया ने वास्तविक सामाजिक सशक्तीकरण को जन्म दिया है? समालोचनात्मक जांच करें।

Demand of the question:

It expects students to write about whether social media has contributed to real social empowerment with substantial arguments.

Introduction:

Popular hash tag of Black lives matter on various social media sites ignited worldwide movement against racial discrimination and for demand of equality. Twitter a popular micro blogging social media site decided to affix a warning label to US President Trump’s tweet about protests in US against custodial death of George Floyd, indicating that it violated the platform’s rule against glorifying violence.

Body:

Social empowerment means equal status, participation and power of decision making to women, minorities and backward sections of society. 

Role of social media in real social empowerment:

  • Democratic movements like Arab spring started with social media’s viral video brought down many unpopular rulers, recent protest over violence against coloured people highlighted importance of social media platforms in social empowerment. 
  • Awareness about tribal and minority rights by activists on social media. Every person with camera in mobile phone can record and make proof of wrongdoing and injustice.  
  • Success of #MeToo movement due to social media platforms: The #MeToo Movement in India started when Raya Sarkar, a Dalit PhD scholar compiled a list of sexual harassers. However, the movement gained traction when the Bollywood celebrity Tanushree Dutta called out Nana Patekar for sexual harassment. Several men in power have been named and shamed in the #MeToo movement such as Alok Nath, MJ Akbar and Sajid Khan. 
  • The #MeToo Movement, while in some respect, has given a number of women the courage to speak out about the experiences of sexual harassment, it has only extended that courage to women who had the resources to be aware of such a movement.
  • As per Youth Connections for Wellbeing, an integrative review paper says, with or without physical separation (social-distancing) due to Covid-19, youth are using social media to connect and support each other. Report illuminates how teens support each other through digital media during times of stress and isolation.
  • Recognising that youth experience positive social support in many online settings, which may reduce their feelings of social isolation and social anxiety, increase their social skills, and augments their offline friendships.

However, role of social media in real social empowerment is very limited,  

  • Women empowerment attempts to take #MeToo movement to wider sections of society remain limited. While there were initiatives such as the Dignity March, which aimed to make the rural population aware of the movement and help them raise their voices against sexual harassment, there haven’t been many more such instances.
  • Social media use is leading to greater vulnerability for mental health problems for youth, including harassment and bullying, sleep disruption, and exposure to idealized images that may lead to envy. 
  • Too little attention span of users of social media reduces possibility of any real change of attitude towards gender, caste or communal bias.   
  • Spread of hate and insecurity on social media has become worldwide phenomenon. Christchurch shooting live streamed by white supremacist in New Zealand or Muslim man corpse burnt on camera over allegations of love jihad by a Hindu far right in India are examples of validation to hate on social media platforms and its impact on actual; violence and death of people. 
  • Sense of offendedness: Polarised opinions are feeding on people’s sentiments of being “offended” based on their perception of how freely the religious and ethnic minorities can practice their faith and culture. This sense of “offendedness” can often be amplified by the ease of communication on social media.
  • Anonymity provided by social media sites increases the daring of rumour monger or extremist opinionated person to spread hate and insecurity.  
  • Lesser users might hamper revenue models of social media giants: Twitter and Facebook, in particular, are being made to account for their blind eye towards polarising fake news reports and computer ‘bots’  programmed to widely disseminate such articles on their platforms. 
  • Algorithm favours polarisation: The algorithms used by these platforms, which distort realities and create alternate ones in echo chambers of like-minded users where beliefs are perpetuated, even those that are premised on hate and lies.
  • Complex nature of social media: In a socially networked world where comment is free and reactions are instant, lines between violent personal abuse and/or speech inciting violence against a community or group are becoming increasingly blurred. At times, even if intent and language are not explicitly hateful, the implications can be.

Conclusion:

Field of social media is the crossroads between technology, profit, freedom, politics, identity, power and insecurity that any effort to regulate social media will have to traverse. Social media is virtual world which is reflection of physical world; there is need of more concrete efforts to bring social empowerment along with social media as tool. 

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