Social media has had a profound impact on society, changing the way we receive news, connect with others and communicate. Social media plays a major role in many crowdsourcing campaigns, as organizations reach out to their crowds to solicit ideas to solve problems, create new products and much more. When someone posts an idea, votes on a project or comments on an idea, they can reach out to their crowd via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc., to drum up additional support for a campaign they are passionate about/support. This type of social media activity helps word spread about an organization’s initiatives, ultimately expanding the reach of the campaign and increases the size of their crowd.
Does social media foster civic engagement?
An article by Emily Badger on the Miller-McCune site titled “Are Facebook, Twitter, fostering civic engagement?,” discusses the link between social media and civic engagement. Badger looks at the question “Can it (social media) also be used to strengthen democracy and civic engagement in countries like the U.S. that do have it (democracy)?” In the article, Badger writes:
“The answer isn’t so obvious. Political operatives and White House insiders have touted the power of Facebook, Twitter and Google to engage the public in election season and the governing decisions that follow. But contrarian voices have sprung up to suggest those platforms have hidden consequences, encouraging “slacktivism” as much as activism, and narrowing our world view rather than expanding it.”
Badger provides examples from both sides on the issue:
“Most controversially of late, Eli Pariser suggests in the new book The Filter Bubble that today’s hyper-personalized Facebook feeds and Google search results may just feed us information from the people who already think like us and about news that confirms what we already believe. By using indicators we provide about ourselves — when we “like” Sarah Palin’s Facebook page — Pariser suggests social networks may be tailoring content to our biases, filtering out precisely the opposing views a globally connected Internet was supposed to facilitate.”
While on the other hand:
“Research that Pew released last week suggests quite the opposite: Facebook users are more politically engaged than most people, and they’re more trusting of others and have more and stronger relationships in the real world. The study also showed that MySpace users are more likely to be open to opposing points of view.”
Both sides raise some very important points. However, I think that social media can certainly foster civic engagement. There are certain interests I have and if I didn’t follow certain organizations on Twitter or Facebook, I might miss out on an opportunity to get involved. Whether it’s something as simple as sharing an article or signing up to volunteer somewhere, social media has made it easier for me to stay up to date and involved. When a friend of mine is involved in a run or a cycle for a charity, they usually post a link to the donation page on Facebook, which prompts their ‘friends’ to donate or sign up for the race themselves. I don’t feel that social media makes my world narrow, I feel like it opens it up my world and exposes me to more things.