Social Media in Changing Public Perception

Abstract

Creation of internet technologies in the recent past has influenced the manner in which the public perceives news across the entire globe. For instance, social media is one of the newest technologies that have allowed people to express their opinions on matters concerning their lives. In this respect, there is a need to understand that emergence of social media technologies has made the world to be interconnected (Hafez 2008).

Therefore, the manner in which news headlines spread from one place to another is faster than in centuries. Presently, people from across the globe have a chance of sharing all things that happen in specific localities almost as soon as they happen (Lefort & Bourg 2007).

There are cases when some people use social media platforms for their benefits such as businesses, raising political fan bases and other aspects that relate to social aspects of humans (Shoemaker & Reese 2005). It means, therefore, that social media can be used to manipulate opinions of the public concerning all aspects of life. This paper will review the role that social media platforms play in the shaping of public opinions on matters concerning them. Most particularly, the paper will discuss how social sites manipulate and frame news items.

Social sites transform the world into virtual lives where people have chances of interpreting information according to their understanding and post comments generated on their walls for the rest of the world to read and still make comments (Xiang & Gretzel 2010). In this way, there are chances that news items undergo multiple changes because of numerous interpretations from the public. There are other fora that allow social media users to discuss news postings, which further generates news articles a fresh with messages of opinions from the public (Wahl-Jorgensen & Hanitzsch 2009).

This work will demonstrate that all comments arising from social media, regardless of whether they support or discern the uprising of 2011, are results of social media framing because of the interactive nature of such sites. The research questions used in this analysis generated types of framings from the Muslims and the non-Muslims as well as the arguments that social media users developed to validate their stands. Finally, the paper will analyze the tone of social media messages and the effect they have on shaping public perception.

Introduction

The revolutions which happened during spring in 2011 caused people to develop a though that social media sites are potential sources of violence. In this context, the extent to which activists used social media to mobilize support during the crisis is an insight concerning the power of social media in creating understandings of people towards events. Some radical users of the internet have developed arguments that social media is a tool that can be used for the liberation of people and is irresistible especially because it is a driver for good within the society (Mutz 2013). In this respect, radicals consider the internet as a tool that gives members of the public a voice against their leaders and checks against bad governance.

The paper will relate the events that occurred in Egypt according to the relevance of theoretical frameworks that were developed long before the invention of social media. There is a need to consider that the media (social media sites inclusive) played a critical role in publicizing the skirmishes that occurred in Egypt and their subsequent following by the international community. The discussion will also demonstrate that social media has both the potential to mobilize support and the ability to disrupt peace. In the same context, the paper will demonstrate the power of social media in changing people’s minds on some topics in life.

Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times columnist, suggested that social media has created a scene of the people against their governments (Bertot, Jaeger & Grimes 2010). In this case, governments are perceived as firing bullets at weak citizens who use tweets to fight back. The mentioned case scenario resulted in the labelling of uprisings that happened in Moldova and Iran as Twitter Revolutions. The latter phrase has also resulted in people concluding that what the internet’s social platforms can do depends largely on the fact that they are purely democratic.

There are a number of events that preceded the Egyptian revolutions such as the voting in of a new president in Tunisia in the aftermath of violence and the killing of Muammar Qadaffi. The latter event was recorded live by as many people as the witnesses were and events posted to the social sites as soon as possible.

Theories of Communication and Their Relationship with Social Media

The utilization of social media as an effective weapon in organizing and mobilizing people is explicable by a number of established propositions of communication. One of the theories used in this work is Lasswell’s Functionalist Model (Comstock & Scharrer 2009). The theory gives a framework, which analyses the use of communication and its channels. More precisely, the model investigates what people say, what channel they use, to whom they communicate, and what effect results after the communication (Bolton 2008). In this case, the theory considers the society as a platform where people are bound by a form of communication and their communication results in actions.

Another theory that is useful in this context is Manuel Castell’s Network Model, which explains the features of a social set up. In this case, the theory can be used to explain how people may use others for political activism by the use of weak ties, the egalitarian state of communications done online, and the anonymity that the internet provides its users. For this case, there is a need to consider that weak ties have the capacity of opening up chances for people and providing information at relatively lower costs than other forms of communication (Bertot, Jaeger & Grimes 2010).

The internet provides an advantage to its users by permitting forging of weak ties with unknown persons in a pattern of communication that is egalitarian in nature in which there are less framing influences and at times blocking of communication. How strong a tie grows relies on the time spans, the intensity of emotions, the levels of intimacy (in this case not confiding), as well as the reciprocal issues that make up the ties. The success of social media is based on such ties and acquaintances with strangers.

The Role Played By Social Media in the Egyptian Violence Of 2011

In as much as Mubarak’s deposition lasted only 18 days, the logistics of his come-down lasted longer and involved serious planning as well as build-up. In this case, the process took years to repress and disenfranchise to a level that it created political mobilization. If this work was to review any element of the violence in Egypt and avoid this historical consideration, there would result a one-sided conclusion. Additionally, if such a conclusion was used to discuss the role of social media, there are chances that the discussion will result in determinism of technology. Rather, a substantial part of this section will review the role of both digital and social media in the context that contributed to the 2011 demonstrations (Young 2013).

First, there was a general discontent with the way Mubarak ruled Egypt evidenced by an analysis that there were more than 3000 strikes involving workers and the rest of the public for the period in which he was the president. The country has a large proportion of youthful population, who do not have jobs because it does not have the capacity of doing so (Young 2013). Another important fact is that the rest of the population is in the old bracket and has little interest in the affairs of the people.

In this case, the power regime of the nation showed that it was almost completely out concern for the citizens, which caused the disenfranchised category of people to begin mobilizing. However, the intellectuals who founded the movement did not succeed in mobilizing large support because they found it quite hard to martial the support of workers.

The situation transformed in 2008 after a 27-year old girl called Abdel Fattah started a Facebook page that targeted to call for support for the worker strike of April 6, which was to affect a textile mill found in the Nile Delta. The intended strike targeted to protest the increments in prices of basic commodities in the country against reduction in wages, which was characteristic of one of the worst levels of inflation. April 6 resulted in the formation of another group that had similar interests, The Youth Movement, which had a critical role to play in the final clashes of 2011.

Google’s Middle East Marketing Manager posted images of Khaled’s corpse and accompanied it with a string text that called for the support of sympathizers during protests after the deceased was killed by the police. However, there had been an uprising in Tunisia in which Ben Ali had been dethroned as the president. In this respect, the events in Tunisia provided an ignition for activists in Egypt with the Tunisians providing both inspiration and advice that was shared over social media.

Social Media as a Tool of Organizing the 2011 Riots

There is a need to note that protests in Egypt happened at a faster rate than those in Tunisia and Libya. For instance, the Tunisian uprising did not stop until after 28 days while those in Libya lasted about 9 months. The events that led to the removal of Mubarak from power lasted a total of 18 days and were relatively more peaceful than those in Libya and Tunisia (Sinclair et al. 2008). Fundamental to the speed of occurrence and the rate of success was the use of social media as a tool, which began virtually online and transformed to practical groups.

Activists utilized the tremendousness in the speed at which information transfers from one end to another and the large numbers of people who had the willingness to participate. In this case, Facebook provided both organizational infrastructure and a critical platform that allowed all potential protestors to share their problems and exchange ideas on the best ways of managing the riots. The motivation for people to join the strike resulted from an observation that others had also joined the strike. At long last, the riots replicated on their own because they had become so popular that news had spread to all corners of the world. Prior to that there was a need to mobilize as many people as the activists could manage (Ruddy 2012).

The Use of Social Media in Alternative Communication

The ease of joining social media platforms makes such sites avenues for people of all walks of life to post on them events that happen in specific localities. For instance, Egyptians used Facebook and Twitter to post videos and pictures of events that happened in their country. Al Jazeera, for example, depended on news that bloggers sourced from social sites to follow the events as they happened and aired them to the rest of the world (Storck 2011). As much as there were problems associated with citizen journalism such as inaccuracy, social media sites provided Egyptians a chance of expressing their interests and communicating them to the outside world. There is an interesting aspect concerning the perception of the riots across the Arab world from the Westernized perspective (Pollack 2011

The Use of Social Media in Generation of Ideas

The internet played a critical role in radicalization of Egyptians against Mubarak’s rule. For instance, the paper has already discussed the fact that Facebook and Twitter played a fundamental role in the creation of awareness about the rights of citizens. Ideas developed soon spread to all corners of the country and across the globe. Therefore, Facebook provided an effective tool for cyber activism, which attracted support as soon as possible (Storck 2011).

Conclusion

This work has used the Egyptian Uprising of 2011 as a convention for explaining the role of social media in shaping public perception. The work has revealed that social sites participated in the process in three major ways; generating ideas, as alternative press, and as a tool for organizing the riots. There is also a consideration that events that resulted in the dethroning of Mubarak were slow but particularly organized. Therefore, there is proof enough that social media has a potential of changing how one thinks and acts. The easiness of the joining social sites is the basis for the large numbers of users from across the globe.

The largeness in the numbers of subscribers of the makes it easy to mobilize people over any issues of concern. Using social media to affect the perceptions of people concerning issues in the community concurs with communication theories, which identify the society as being a social unit in which people interact and learn from one another. This work has also recognized the fact that mainstream media may also produce media framing especially in the event that there are limited sources of journalistic information.

Annotated bibliography

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