Sunday, December 11, 2011

Its your fault -- NEW MEDIA

After the Arab spring, many countries have blamed their problems on New Media. "Information is spreading too fast. We can't stop all the rumors."

For many decades, the government in many countries have no transparency, and a state controlled media where information they do not wish to share is simply not reported. Controlling the media allows the government to craft their messages and share what information they deem is required.

New media had caused turmoil in the Arab world, where popular uprisings ousted the autocratic leaders of Egypt and Tunisia and brought the Libyan regime to its knees. In Singapore, new media sites are more influential than all the other newspapers with more engagement, discussions and reads.

Many governments want to "control the Internet", either by censoring or blocking sites or imposing fines on a certain code of conduct. Many government are unable to respond to critics when they roll out an unpopular law, and pledge "responsible expression" or a code of conduct on the Internet. In Singapore, the ministers call social media, "The Wild West" and condemn the use of many site which reports on their failings.

But what exactly has changed? What made these government fear or hate social media? In essence, nothing much have changed. People will always complain about bad policies or information that seems unjust. The only main difference is, the government gets real feedback from real people who feel the need to share. So why do the government fear the rise of social media?

1) Unfamiliarity causes fear. Most people in power are not Gen-Y and do not grow up using their gadgets. But just think about emails, 10 years ago, many of them will still be expecting mail, but now email is a standard form of communication.

2) Some may feel that they are too important to engage with the public on social media, or their privacy is threatened. The truth is, you are the one sharing data, and if the information does not put you in a good light, then you have the choice not to share.

3) People will give lots of negative feedback if you engage on social media. However, people will talk with or without you. With social media, you get informed on the negative feedback and it is not filtered from you.

4) People can form groups faster and create instability. On social media, it is true that people can form groups faster. But instead of complaining, large organizations like Red Cross and many other NGOs have used it to create more awareness and raised more funds for their causes. The government can also engage and influence to win more people on their policies.

5) Social media is a waste of time. Although social media may be a "time-suck", when use properly, it disseminates information faster than one-to-one communications. When you ask a question on your twitter account, all of your followers can read and may respond to you.

A good policy is important for successful social media engagement. Social media is here to stay and it is just another medium of communications. Don't blame social media. Instead on leverage and you can find the ease to reach more people and get real feedback.

-- Robin Low

The Indonesian Way: When in doubt, blame the New Media