Social Media Must Not Spiral Out Of Control

August 10, 2018 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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By

Alem Hailu G/Kristos

 

 

Credibility and accuracy are among the topmost requirements for evaluating the quality of news. All the more so, as news has the power to shape the opinions and outlooks of people who use it as an invaluable input.

 

The shaping of public opinion comes in tandem with reactions including the knee-jerk ones. At times, such reactions could court disastrous outcomes if the news stories carry across sensitive issues that provoke and foment conflicts like people-to-people and people-to-government ones.

 

In traditional media silos, true to the principles, news that journalists produce must chime in with honesty to the truth and the audience.

 

Unless tied down by iron censorship, coerced to tout the government and also obsessed by the desire to amass fortune via yellow journalism attacking the government, journalists in the government and private media respectively abide by the aforementioned virtues of honesty. As much as possible, they try not to go astray from the truth.

 

Against this backdrop, a new trend of disseminating information has evolved on the footfall of human beings’ technological advancement.

 

This trend is referred media convergence. It characterizes the combination of digitization and computer networking. In other words, it means going viral in the dissemination of news stories, video footage, pictures and the like at a faster pace than the traditional ones. The fad has opened a room for a swift and worldwide circulation of content.

 

As a nuclear power could be used for better or worse, media convergence could either be devoted to fast and easy transmission of credible information strengthening the previous trend or dishing out far fetched and fake stories as most often seen on social media like Facebook.

 

The technological convergence has allowed barrier penetration for media production. As such it has swung a room for hobbyists that are consumers of media content to be producers and distributors of such content like professionals in the trade. This new trend is also referred to as a media democracy.

 

The coming into life of this new trend is not however without its own problems…

 

In the traditional media, though journalists enjoy freedom of the press they have to be cautious not to breech the obligations that accompany liberty. They have to refrain from tarnishing the reputations of individuals and organizations, abstain from reports that damage the national security of the nation, distance themselves from poisoning the minds of the youth as well as stay aloof from triggering conflicts like ethnic-based ones.

 

Unlike hobbyists on social media, as journalists know they are accountable for their actions they try to exercise the necessary precautions.

 

Flipping back to the problem, suppose there are three ethnic groups namely X, Y and Z. While using social media like Facebook, Z, under the guise of Y, could denigrate X. In an effort to get even, X could give a dressing down to Y. Hence X and Y could go for each others’ necks to the delight of the diabolic Z that tries to fish in troubled water. Also blowing the bickering of Y and Z out of proportion, X could make relations between the two to go from bad to worse.

 

Missconstruing the statement of government officials, some also try to fan the embers of fracases. When officials underline the concept of adding up to spearhead growth that uplifts millions from the quagmire of poverty, the self seeking could show disposition to sowing the seed of discord. As a trend, as there is no differentiating between the credible and otherwise, it is not hard to surmise that the latter may have many followers, to whom they make political analysis of every making. Also this way many youths, successors of the nation, could be forced to go off track putting national security under a threat.

 

Under the anonymity of pseudonymous names, Mr. B could write something that tarnishes the image of Mrs. C without punitive measures.

 

All these show the obligations set parallel to freedom of expression are being breached by the irresponsible and those that managed to evade accountability.

 

In a bid to address such challenges the elderly, experts and talk shows preparing journalists, among others, have to inculcate citizens especially youths with niceties.

 

That is why experts, underline the government, should have social media regulations with the intention of preventing ethnic-based bickering and related problems, for otherwise the problem could spiral out of control.

 

 

 

 

Alem Hailu G/Kristos

A published poet, novelist, editor, translator of masterpieces, literary critic, playwright and journalist from Ethiopia. M.A holder in literature, Addis Ababa University.

Looking for a traditional publisher of a collection of poems. My novel: ‘Hope from the debris of hopelessness’.

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