Social media is often a controversial topic, but the capabilities and potential these sites possess are too frequently overlooked.  Social networks have become powerful and insightful instruments for communication technologies. Social media sites have the ability to provide immediate networked communications and allow for information processing that flows seamlessly and effortlessly through continental and international borders.

One of the most recent examples is the aid provided during the Arab Spring movement in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.  Social platforms permitted these individuals to receive international support, allowed for rapid dissemination of information and news, and dispensed widespread messaging, all of which ultimately affected public opinion.

Hector Ruiz, Chairman of the Board and President of Advanced Micro Devices 50×15 Initiative, once said, “Technology is only as powerful as it is accessible. Broader access brings education, information, and a sense of community that can help combat AIDS, malnutrition, ignorance and neglect. The power of a connected and enlightened world community is just beginning.”

Social media shed new light on the concept of democracy, bringing forth power right to the hands of the public themselves. Social revolts that have actively utilized such technologies are changing the future.  Without social media tools, people are not empowered and do not have the instantaneous access to information and communication across borders that allows for knowledge and consciousness raising.

I gained greater awareness and personal insight into the power and possibility of the usage of these sites as a result of our visit to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and through our discussion with Glenn Kates, manager of Digital Initiatives.  RFE/RL is an organization that provides free media in countries where free press is banned by the government or is not yet fully established.

Glenn discussed the necessity of relying on social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, to disperse information when RFE/RL broadcasts have been banned.  He mentioned that this user-generated content “puts his staff over the edge.”  When users upload their content RFE/RL investigates it for accuracy.  Glenn said, “It is the difference between knowing something is happening and seeing it happen.”  He then showed a live YouTube video of Russian Parliament filling out fake ballots.  Glenn’s words were, “it changed things.”

I now better understand and appreciate exactly how these social media tools have provided revolutionary methods of bringing understanding and power to the people, casting new meaning to the concept, “information is power.”

Featured Image photo by Seda Stepanyan
__________________Cited Sources__________________
Taghreed, A. (2012). Creative use of social media in the revolutions of tunisia, egypt, and libya. International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 6, 147-158.
Slackman, M. (2011). Bullets stall youthful push for arab spring. Retrieved on August 13, 2013 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/middleeast/18youth.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Glenn Kates (August 12, 2013) Social Media- Modern Media and Democracy students.
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