Does Social Media really leads to democracy? - New Media (1)

Everyone is talking about how New Media is reshaping the world now by giving everybody the freedom to publish his/her opinions and ideas online to be viewed by others. There are millions of blogs on Internet now with people publishing their individual perceptions of different things every minute,while microblogs such as Twitter empowers people to share their minds literally every second.

Social Media is based on the Web, which "offers something for free, it undercuts the authority, and it enables ordinary people to shape knowledge together. In other words, it fulfills the leveling dreams of the webs found fathers."(BBC 2, Virtual Revolution)

However, does the development of Social Media really leads to pure democracy?

According to the documentary film by BBC 2, "Virtual Revolution" finds as the Internet grows, a rather controversial phenomenon emerges.

This is a mathematically calculated map of Internet giants nowadays in the film. As it states: "Each month, we search Google for more than 38 million times, 1/3 of us now has a facebook page, eBay gets 21 million visits a month, Amazon, 16 million. The web has one search engine, one marketplace, one bookshop, and one social network that matter."

If we pay more attention, we'd realized that there is barely a competitor for Facebook or Twitter. And for search engine giant Google, their current rivals in the market, Yahoo! and the rookie Bing are far from competitive.

"When you think about it, it’s odd that there’re no competitors to facebook. There’s competition for everything in a capitalist society. Does that fact demonstrate that in fact internet is a limited place for all the rhetoric about entrepreneurial and culture freedom?" (BBC 2, Virtual Revolution)

In the lecture last Wednesday, there is a concept as "Having a Voice Gives You Power." The typical example is one of most influential blogger on Web, Arianna Huffington and her Huffington Post. Although it looks like democratic as one ordinary person can establish her influence in politics simply using a blog, fewer has realized that for Arianna, having a personal family background of being related & connected to wealth and inside politic loops enables her to have all firs-handed resources for a successful social media platform, in this case it is actually "Power gives you a voice online". And ironically, now Huffington Post looks more like a online version of a traditional newspaper rather than what it was like before--with individuality and originality.

"The very lack of regulation on the web means that those with most resources can shout the loudest, and can impose their brands and their authority." And that's the case with Arianna.

So where does Public Relations Stand in this situation? One thing we know for sure is that Social Media dosent necessarily leads to democracy. There will still be some sort of hierarchy that needs professional communication between different levels and towards different groups. It's true that thousands of voices will speak with different opinions in a more direct way, and Public Relations can use Social Media as a more democratic approach in terms of communications and persuasions, rather than consider social media itself as democracy.

And in that sense, Public Relations is in nowhere near being left behind, the New Media revolution just makes PR more necessary than ever before.

Virtual Revolution BBC 2
Public Relations on the Net by Shel Holtz
Huffington Post Arianna Huffington
The Myth of Control in New Media Brian Solis
Are Blogs Credible News Sources?

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