I am concerned with the alarming rate with which social media is changing conventional news and journalism. Today, there is widespread application of digital technology that allows for the creation and dissemination of information across the Internet. Currently, highly accessible publishing techniques on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube among many others, have increased the conversations and interactions between people online.

The use of social media is now widespread, as it has moved beyond geographical and cultural boundaries. Social media, therefore, has greatly influenced news and journalism by changing the way journalists engage with their audiences, and by extension, how people interact with each other the world over.

I am concerned about the great potential of social media to destroy our social fabric while promoting moral decadence faster than the world has ever experienced before. Regardless of its perceived convenience, it is a double-edged sword. What is said and how it is said online has an impact on one’s online presence, marketability, career, or even one’s business.

Additionally, fraudsters have found social media platforms to be excellent places to find victims. Many people have physically or psychologically suffered, while others have incurred huge economic losses at the hands of those met online. Viewed from traditional journalistic lens’ and values, it is evident that our society needs to take precautions while using social media as a news source.

Mainstream, legacy media have also not been spared from this social media craze. In the face of the rapid growth of social networks as a source of news, print media, for example, have experienced a continued decline in circulation. These news outlets have therefore been forced to turn to social networks with the hope of attracting more readers.

For instance, today, almost every mainstream media organization, whether newspaper, TV or radio, together with their editors and reporters, have a social media presence. The public is increasingly seeking its news not from legacy media, but online, where they select the news and opinions they care about the most. Editors no longer have the ability to filter the news as the target audiences now decide what to read and where to find it. The biggest challenge with this, however, is how to maintain the quality and credibility of the news they consume.

Social media enables connection over common beliefs, desires or interests among individuals all over the world. Ultimately, the world has been reduced to a global village, where people can succeed or fail together. Social media has not only affected how people connect with each other for a good cause but has also provided a ground for criminal activity. Terrorism, for instance, thrives on social media platforms in the ways terrorists now use them to engage with each other.

The opinion, perceptions, and actions traditionally shaped by information from mainstream media are now shaped by social media, and mainstream media are alarmingly being overwhelmed by the pressure of social media. Consequently, these mainstream news outlets are increasingly using social media platforms as a new tool for both news dissemination and marketing. However, the general public should be aware of the fact that if the social media platforms are not used responsibly, they will cause irreparable damage to our societies. Perhaps, our future as a society lies in legislation, which can govern social media by putting checks and balances that will guarantee the sustainability of our societies.

by Nianqiao Tang