Technological improvements and advancements of the Web 2.0 have a significant effect on communication in the society. The fields of social media and movements have had a growing relationship. Recent social biggest social movements in the past century have occurred through the influence of social media, including the Arab Uprising in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Occupy Wall Street in the United States of America. Social media have become a tool for gathering and spreading information to millions of users. The use of traditional media is gradually shifting to social networks due to their increasing scope of coverage. The proposal uses qualitative analysis to define the role that social media as a tool of communication play in the current society in the context of social movements. Their public sphere has highly been digitized in the 21st century. There are new technologies that have been developed to allow new and exciting realities in the search, spread, and dissemination of all kinds of information. Governments, corporations, lobby groups and other forces associated with control of the media are gradually losing influence through social media platforms. It is important to develop an effective social media platform that regulates social movements and flow of information.
Social Movements and Social Media
Through an analysis of history, it is certain that if people are motivated to influence changes within their lives, social action is inherently imminent. There have been various social movements that can be seen at different levels with the aim of transforming the society. In the current society, digital technology provides new possibilities through which activists can pass information, connect with others with similar ideologies, and publicize the information on a global scale. Featherstone's ideas on a global village identify that the all-inclusiveness brought about in the world by new technologies have caused integration in culture, economics, lifestyles, and political ideology (Featherstone, 2006). The ability of people to interact and enact changes in their lives is intriguing considering the social networks available and the features provided. About a third of the world is connected on a daily basis in different bubbles ranging from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and audio and video libraries such as YouTube. The growing relevance and popularity of the social networks have influenced both formal and informal communication. It has given the oppressed and marginalized group to air their views. An analysis of previous social movements in the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street can assist in developing a social media platform for current and future movements.
The power of the real-time communication provided by social media is an important tool for individuals who are not willing to change from control by governments or corporations in the society. The population has the ability to organize effectively and quickly using the social media as a communication platform. As seen in earlier social movements, the protestors may air their views in vain. The governments or corporations do not have an obligation to respond to the views of the activists. In response to the protests, they provide more information and opinions and air them in alternative media (Jenkins, 2005). While social media can be used for social movements, they lack the official recognition accorded to other forms of media such as news networks and newspapers. Therefore, some movements have had minimum recognition or effects. As the majority of the world knew about the uprisings in Libya and Egypt, little was known about the uprising in Bahrain, which received little media coverage due to government control. While the protesters used social media platforms, the government gave information on other popular corporate platforms such as CNN and Al Jazeera. In Syria and Tunisia, the uprisings were not known globally until they escalated to civil war. The development of an effective platform can solve the problem of publicizing ideologies independently by social movements.
The digital revolution age in the world has been at its peak in the 21st century. The convergence culture theory as stated by Jenkins has made it possible for the creation of an information database made up of personal opinions in social media updates (Jenkins, 2005). Through the internet, the information spread has been uncontrollable, where every individual receives views from multiple media without the ability to disseminate the information and analyze it to determine its validity. For example, a politician's update on Twitter is retweeted repeatedly and spread to other platforms such as Facebook and blog posts. As the information spreads, people become accustomed to it as public policy rather than opinion due to the distortion occurring during the spread (Holt & Schor, 2000). The social media platform has been responsible for controversies, spread of false information, sexual and racial oppressions as well as political and the corporate spread of propaganda. About 90 percent of people reading about the Arab Uprising in the social media do not know its background. Similar debates affect the perception of gender inequalities and terrorism in the Eastern countries and political chaos in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, various movements can use the social networks for positive results to solve social injustices by developing an effective platform.
Developing the Social Media Platform
A social media platform's success during social movements depends entirely on its speed ability to access the masses and deliver valid and true information to the people. The events and debates carried out on the platform should be based on the ideologies of the movements. It should be created as a means to address a problem occurring in the society, such as the oppression by a secretive government. The platform should enable free entry and exit of the members and avoid the creation of another information-censoring group. The irony of some social movements is the spread of false information and forcing people to face similar or worse consequences as under the current situation they would wish to change. For example, ideologies against an oppressive government led the Arab uprising in Egypt. However, the social movement created was responsible for the election of another oppressive government that has led to more protests. The leaders independent of political or corporate influence should administer the social media platform for a movement. The administrators should allow every member to express their views and discontent before organizing protest events.
The social media platform should also be free of the force that the social movement wishes to oppose. As seen in the corporate media, some platforms are highly controlled by corporations and governments or both. It becomes difficult for the media to provide access to information from social movements against such powers or forces. The social media platform should involve one administered by an independent power. It should be developed in such a way that every individual interested in joining the movement is aware of the problems and challenges driving the protests. The platform should clearly state the movement's mission statement and goals for all participants rather than trigger general debates about general subjects. For example, a platform should state a certain challenge affecting workers in an organization, rather than being developed against the organization in general. The content and information dissemination are also important in the development of the platform. It should not censor the participants' views, therefore, it should screen the content posted to avoid going against the movement's aims and objectives. The platform should not encourage violent or discriminating information, which might have detrimental effects on the movement's campaigns (Dean, 2005). However, it should encourage bringing forward all issues of the unacceptable status quo and conflicts in order to bring about a successful movement.
Social movements are simple undertakings that achieve results through single protests. The successful movements such as the Arab Spring required collective identity among thousands of people. Most movements are against oppression by a government or a corporation, thus, as the movement becomes stronger, the opposing powers start looking for ways to shut it down. The use of social media platforms in communication is not limited to the protesting groups. Corporations and governments also actively employ bloggers and social network debaters to release information and responses against social movements. The most successful methods applied are not meant to respond to the issues of the debate, but rather to attack individuals leading the protests or give some other interesting information that makes the movement's issues irrelevant in debates. The stronger forces use their power to work around some communication sites and may even shut them down (MacDonald, 2014). Therefore, a successful social media platform for a social movement should be ready to overcome such challenges. It should implement multiple websites and links within the social movement's network, which are able to continue attracting attention and pushing vigilantly for the change in the oppressive policies. The platforms should have the backing of fast, secure networks of websites to continue the communication process despite the challenges faced.
The new digital media provide the most efficient platform in history that supports social movements. They offer secure communication among groups that is independent of control by the unacceptable powers. An effective platform should be one that promotes liberty and the free spread of information. However, other malicious groups detrimental to the society can apply the platforms. Religious and governmental regimes that impose harsh conditions to the people have used the platforms to exert their influence across a global scale. It is up to the social movements to create efficient platforms that can withstand such powers. The control that earlier existed among powers to divide the people in social movements in order to conquer them has become weaker with social media platforms. Globalization has also assisted in ensuring that millions of people can undertake social media campaigns against socially unacceptable and oppressive policies without geographical limitations or the fear of the powers against which they are fighting.