Social Media Should we love it or hate it?

17 February 2014 08:36 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Does Cyberspace kill? Is it not our ignorance about the nature of new social media that leads to tragedies mostly? The tragic death of Venusha Imandi, a young school girl from Kurunegala, compels us to rethink of these issues more seriously. Venusha had a Facebook account and used it for interacting with her friends. Reportedly, she had also published some of her photos in school uniform in Facebook. There couldn't have been anything too strange about the young girl’s behaviour. She was just one among the thousands of students and youth of this country who use cyberspace to get away from the austerity of the real world and enjoy freedom that they yearn for in their adolescent age. Youngsters pick up technology very fast; they use it to cross the traditional social, cultural and ethical boundaries with ease. Internet communication is a global phenomenon and trend among the youth. The advent of popular social media has provided the youth a broader scope for interaction in a virtual world, and the elders need to have a very broadminded attitude toward them.

"There is a lot of freedom in new social media. It is very often a personalised media which can be shared, liked and commented on. The live and interactive nature of social media makes it more attractive for the young and social activists"


Today, the idea of ‘social space’ has received a redefined meaning with the spread of social networks on Cyberspace. We have been introduced the Computer and the Internet, but the difference that they have added to the existing social space has not become a topic for serious academic discussion. The sociology of cyber media is yet to become an area of academic study in our universities and schools. We have failed to create awareness of the social media and its implications for the social and cultural aspirations of the young.


Cyberspace is not a space that is different from the real world. It is very much a part of the world around us. The major difference is the time and space gap between the real world and the virtual world. The boundary between the real social world and the virtual social sphere is made by the gadgets and the internet technology that we use to enter the social space in cyberspace. Otherwise, in this virtual space men and women mostly do the things that they as well do in the real world. However, the degree of freedom in cyberspace is comparably so high from that of what we experience in the real world. In some cases, social media provides the freedom for its users to exist in the virtual space with fake identities and explore their fantasised desires as well.  


The elders, like the principal of Venusha’s school, are mostly used to reflect on negative consequences befalling the young when they use social media tools like the Facebook.  They think the young would be prematurely exposed to sexually explicit stuff in cyberspace and they may use cyberspace for romance and love only. As our education system does not provide a scientific sociological education on adolescent sexual orientation or human sexual behaviour in general, the fear in the parents of their children using social media is justifiable mostly. Yet, the elders should approach the young and discuss things in a more enlightened and liberal fashion. They should realise that ‘punishment’ is meant for discipline and correction and not creating psychological trauma in young minds.


 The young think of cyberspace as a utopia, while the elders think of it as a dystopia that comes to destroy their children. Mostly we have got unrealistic and extremist viewpoints of social media. First of all, social media is untraditional and the people can use it mostly as they wish to use it, for good or bad. Unlike in traditional media, there is much freedom in new social media. It is very often a personalised media which can be shared, liked and commented on. The live and interactive nature of social media makes it more attractive for the young and social activists. The implications of the use of social media therefore could be both negative and positive depending on what you want to share, publish, like and comment about using it.


According to the available reports, the principal of Venusha’s school has allegedly punished her for using ‘Facebook’ to publish her photos. As can be imagined, the young girl had undergone a huge psychological trauma after the incident and finally committed suicide. Now the parents and her friends are staging protests asking the authority to punish the principal of the school. ‘Discipline and punishment’ remain a huge part of our social, cultural and political sphere. Schools, prisons, temples, jails all are modern day places to discipline people. Students from the childhood receive formal education under a strict system of ‘discipline and punish’. The tragic death of this young school girl makes us to seriously think about the existing systems which are intended for disciplining young people of our society as well. Since schools are not militarised institutions, the teachers have a responsibility to discuss things sensibly and humanly to avoid such tragedies.


We should accept that schools are neither military institutions nor religious temples; they are a kind of modern secular institutions that train the student to behave rationally and democratically in society. When the idea of this modern institution is not well received by those who control them, we will have to expect many of such tragic cases in future too. Therefore, the necessity is first to address the ignorance of elders of social media and its implications  and then make them teach the young about the new norms that we need to adhere to when using such media to interact with others.


"The young think of cyberspace as a utopia, while the elders think of it as a dystopia that comes to destroy their children. Mostly we have got unrealistic and extremist viewpoints of social media"



Educationists, intellectuals and civil society of this country should initiate a very democratic and enlightened discussion about social media, youth and the existing understanding of the elders of these phenomena. New media is highly important in the era of information age and societies cannot do without them. Yet, the youth as the prime category of the society needs more awareness of social media and its socially positive dimensions.  
 As Cyberspace is part and parcel of our real space, we have got to research and rethink of the expansion of social space into the virtual space immediately. And many countries in the advanced regions have already done a lot of research on social media and its implications on education, governance, politics, democracy, sexuality etc., and we need to learn from them.
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