Social Media – A Great Equalizer

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Media has come to be referred to as Fourth Estate in the 19th century. The origin of the term can best be explained within the context of the medieval estates of the realm. In medieval society, three estates were formally recognized: the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. Each estate had a very distinct social role and a certain level of power, and the idea of the estates of the realm became entrenched in society. Thus media became the fourth pillar to enjoy the power.

Freedom of the press remained an essential epithet of the society essentially implying the absence of interference from an overreaching state with built-in constitutional and legal safeguards. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The traditional media, print as well as TV, over time has been totally owned and controlled by vested interests or the governments of various persuasions all over the world. The editors and scribes do not have their prerogative to opine or report and often have to toe the strict line of thought set by owners, usually business houses or governments to suit their interests.

The stronghold of these interests on the media of late has been suffocating and unbearable for the freedom loving society and it needed an alternate platform to express itself freely, frankly without fear, bias or coercion.

This necessitated the conception and birth of social media, that got leveraged tremendously by the ubiquitous freely available technological advancements in information technology which provided a fertile ground for the social media to spring forth in the form of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and so on.

The governments of all times and hues are known to hold on to the information on the pretext of sensitivity by declaring as classified and releasing only filtered information that only works as propaganda. Similarly, business houses too use the media to promote their own products and services without any consideration to the free and fair dissemination of information for the consumption of the unsuspecting public. The media owned by such groups can better be seen as merely an extended advertisement and publicity.

The non-availability of information in society leads to the corruption that is rampant in the third world or developing countries precisely because of this very reason. The paid news and fake news has become the norm of the day these days. In India, a movement for the right to information was started in the early 1990s that succeeded in exposing corruption through access to information and acted as a triggering point for civil society and led to the enactment of Right To Information (RTA) law in many Indian states and at the centre in India.

The advent of Social Media has provided a level playing ground to, rich, poor, big or small equally to put across their viewpoints, vent their frustration, show displeasure at governments and also showcase their talent. It has been an uphill task to express your viewpoint on a day to day developments and get your letter to the editor to see the light of the day. That is not the case anymore. Anyone can start a blog and start broadcasting their line of thought to get noticed by the contentious and concerned.

Any group of people can have an online video chat, meeting or seminar via Google Hangout, Skype or similar applications available for free without any cost and form powerful lobby groups and get heard by the powers to be, who do not lend their ear to otherwise. The technology allows even a novice to undertake a sting operation on any unlawful activity or individual. The message or exposure goes viral in a matter of minutes.

The young and new talents can become a celebrity overnight by posting their songs, music, act over YouTube. They do not need to poach and beg for the recording companies. If your talent is up to the mark these companies will follow you to sign thus changing the equation altogether instead of you following them.

The business of the smallest description can reach millions and targeted audience without spending millions, thus equalizing the equation.

Thus is the effect of SOCIAL MEDIA.