Thursday, July 5, 2012

Is social media worth all its hype?


-Timesofindia (Sunita Kurup)
Recently, some mobile phone advertisements caught my eyes. They were all flaunting their easily available features and the common among them was 'easy availability of social media'. This feature was being used as the latest bait to attract buyers. In the world of marketing it is usually said that you give the customers what they want and if they don't have the want, then create the need to have one. 
Everyone seems to be connected to everyone these days. You have a friends list and you are very often bound to find at least one mutual friend. Everything is out there, relationship status, places of your visits, photos of your kids, even minute details like the list of stuff in your fridge and your emotional status too is on these networking sites. A tool that was once merely used for networking is now used as a virtual hang out place by lot of people. Individuals spend a lot of time on these sites. Isolation is not something which man is very comfortable with. Company, friendship, having units of like minded individuals is all ways of reducing the chances of being alone. This need of being in constant touch with others and letting know each other of their presence is probably one of the reasons why being on a social media network is appreciated. 


Once created for individual purpose, today social media is very highly used by corporate world as well. It is but obvious that they would be selling their stuff where the market is concentrated and nowadays everyone seems to be on the social network, hence the ad world seems to be having a new platform to perform. I myself have been doing a lot of shopping now-a-days on internet based on the ads I see on my Facebook profile. And it's really funny, I just noticed, as I type this article MS-word marks Facebook in red, showing a spelling error if you do not write it in capital like Facebook. Anyway, going back to the ad world, it's not only the advertisements that corporates are using social media for; they are also using it to interact more closely and directly with their customers. 


Revolutions and politics are also not untouched by the swamp of social media. It is a well-known fact that the Middle East revolution had gathered a lot of support because of social media. Pictures and live videos being uploaded had their share in instigating the need of a revolution in people, even though they were just virtually connected. A political move that does not keep the masses happy is widely criticised on the social media. Users use their updates to showcase their outrage in form of words. You can garner the mood of a nation by following the users of that nation. Governments have also come forward and started using social media for lot of developmental purposes. The Swedish government's latest approach of letting the citizens handle its twitter account was very well applauded. 


So, yes, social media is the new table where lot of issues are shared and discussed. But does it really work? Is social media really that powerful as it is being projected? Spewing all your personal details on the internet, which actually and in real terms is not private, how intelligent is it? Is it not like leaving the doors of your house open so that anyone can walk in at anytime? Especially the photographs, even the one which you think are secured can be found on the net. This I talk with experience. I was shocked sometime last year when I saw some of the images that were supposed to be visible only to me and my friends on Facebook were seen on one of the search engines. Not to mention people even share their sleep data using various apps, like the world is really dying to know how much they snore and how often they turned their backs while sleeping!! 


Talking about the corporate world, the advertisement part is surely good and while the close interactions with customers is also a good idea, how safe can it be from your competitors? I mean they can see all the complaints made by your customers and identify that as your weakness and take steps to make it their strength. Remember the old school thought; in competition any information is gold! 


Social media played its part in various revolutions we just witnessed, but I am thinking would it have been possible for the Egyptians to out-throw an oppressive government if there was no Tahrir Square? Would it have been possible without the presence of those innumerable individuals there? One might argue that it was the social media that helped them get gathered there, which is a right argument, but does not always work; because if it had to work then we would have seen some justice in the recent Dhoble case in India. There was a furore on Twitter and the other social media platforms about the atrocities of this particular cop, but then it did not influence the court decision in any way. In a recent judgement, a court scrapped the case filed by two women against him saying that he was doing his duty. Would it have made a difference if there was a physical uproar in the form of some demonstration or something and not simply Twitter and Facebook updates? 


Another example is the Presidential elections, which is being virtually fought on Twitter. Who is the right candidate? Whom should the government nominate? These kinds of questions seem to be answered by everyone and anyone, but will it really make any difference. What if the government turns a deaf ear and appoints the one they choose then what is going to be done about it? Well, I think we will have a new topic to tweet about then that's it. The Anna Hazare movement which was supported by millions on Facebook saw only few hundred on the actual ground. I think what is happening is,enough shouting and yelling is being done on social media, so most of them do not have the energy to go out and protest actually. Are we just going to remain virtual protestors? So, has the extensive use of social media really helped us or paralysed us in some way?

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