9 February 2013

Kenya: Social Media Has Made Many Aspects of Life More Convenient

Arguably, the most significant advancement of the 21st century, social media has had a profound impact on our lives. But has it improved our lives? It is a question with a philosophical ring and one that opens up a host of other queries.

First, we must analyse the conveniences and abilities social media has given us.

Social Impact:

If one is to measure the noteworthiness of broadband by calculating the amount of time spent on specific elements, then social media would come on top. Facebook boasts a billion users and Twitter 500 million. That's one out of every seven human beings alive on earth and this doesn't even take into consideration the numbers conversing online through Google+ and what not.

It isn't just how many social media users there are on earth that indicates how much an influence it has had on our lives. It is the amount of time such a large proportion of the human population spends on these sites. A study late last year concluded that one out of every seven minutes online are spent on Facebook, while similar figures are to be expected with Twitter.

Psychological Impact:

However, has this actually improved our lives? A report by published in the Guardian in mid-March established a correlation between Facebook usage and levels of obsessions with self-image, shallow friendships and being a socially disruptive narcissist. The theory was that the social media site had become a platform for empty self-expression and popularity contesting.

Political Impact:

Social media does have its benefits of course. One would have to look no further than the Arab Spring to identify these. The platform's ability to organise and mobilise protests has been cited as the catalyst behind the Arab protests that saw the overthrow of prominent dictators throughout the Middle East.

These uprisings were branded 'Twitter Revolutions' and it is supposed that the ability to network and spread news through social media sites helped the protests spread in a way that would not have been possible otherwise.

While one cannot exactly obtain a broadband speed test and determine the connection levels in the countries involved in the Arab Spring at the time; it is accepted that high speed connections were available in the right places throughout the Middle East. This increases the likelihood of social media having had a fundamental role to play in the uprisings.

However, it has also been suggested that the impact of social media on these revolutions has been overstated, particularly in the Western media. This logic argues that there were large scale revolutions before social media, indicating that the protests would have spread regardless.

In truth, it is likely that social media did play some role. Nevertheless, that it was impactful in the toppling of unjust regimes and tyrannical governments is a credit to the existence of social media.

In Britain, the 2011 riots fueled by social media, which allowed the organisation of rebellions.

Such negative aspects have however brought about positives as many rioters who used social media to arrange and express their involvement in looting sessions, were easily tracked down by the police.

What Constitutes an Improvement to Our Lives?

Upon deliberation, the question of whether or not social media has improved our lives is somewhat unanswerable without knowing the full meaning of life. What is improvement for something you do not know the nature of?

What can be said is that social media has changed our lives and made many aspects incredibly more convenient. But that is all that can be said.

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