Social media is an increasingly disruptive force on the information and social landscape. It challenges traditional, main-stream media to reconsider how they operate and often releases information of which mainstream media might not have been aware or have ignored. It can offer a wider, more diverse perspective on life but has also proven to play a powerful role in creating echo chambers and filter bubbles.
Overall, one may think social and new digital first media have a positive impact on society as where people have access to more and diverse sources of information, the better the chances for democracy to flourish. By empowering individuals to share information and opinion with a mass audience, using technologies of rapid and mass dissemination previously available only to communicators in traditional media, social media cannot but be good for democracy.
As recently noted by The Economist: “Political scientists have long pointed out that social media make it easier for interests to organise: they give voice and power to people who have neither. For instance, they helped get Black Lives Matter, a movement fighting violence against African-Americans, off the ground, according to a recent study led by Deen Freelon of the American University in Washington, DC. But research into another effect has only just begun: social media are also making politics and collective action more “chaotic”, argues a new book called Political Turbulence”.
In this perspective social media are making democracies more “pluralistic”, but not in the conventional sense of the word, involving diverse but stable groups. Instead, the authors see the emergence of a “chaotic pluralism”, in which mobilisations spring from the bottom up.
It is this crucial for our communities to keep evolving in stable democracies to improve the general audience’s understanding of the mechanisms regulating the functioning of societies where social and new media have a growing role in shaping collective perceptions and beliefs.