Monday, March 21, 2016

Impact of Social Media in Bhutan

Social media are Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information.   It includes: Social Networks (e.g., Facebook, Google+, SinaWebo), Blogs (e.g. Huffington Post, PaSsu Diary], Wikis (e.g. Wikipedia), Forums (e.g. Bhutan Speaks), Podcasts (e.g. TED Talks), Content Communities (e.g. Youtube), and Microblogs (e.g. Twitter, WeChat).  It is different from traditional media -- such as newspaper, TV and radio – because it is not a broadcast medium. Social media is a Web 2.0 platform for collaboration and co-creation.

Social media has been described as 'an essential tool for hundreds of millions of Internet users worldwide and a defining element of the Internet generation'.  It is also an enabler of social, economic and political change.

Social media has been credited to helping us 'return to neighborly communications' in a globalizing society.  With social media, distance is no longer a barrier to having social relationships. Social media has also facilitated the creation of 'intentional' groups – collections of individuals with shared recreational, social, political, or religious views or interests.  Contrary to those who see social media as encouraging selfishness, a recent study concludes that Facebook encourages “some aspects of empathy” and that Facebook is “primarily a tool for staying connected, (rather) than self-promotion”.

Social media also helps the economy grow.  It enables businesses to improve consumer focus, enhance collaboration in the production process, and better marketing of goods and services.  One research firm suggests that improved communication and collaboration due to the use of social media in the enterprise could add $900 Billion to $1.3 trillion in value to the US economy alone (A Study by the McKinsey Global Institute, MGI, entitled the Social Economy, Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Technologies, 2012). Social media is also enabling millions of people across every sector of the economy to join forces in self-organized collaborations to produce dynamic new goods and services.

Social media has also become a tool for good governance.  Governments around the world are using social media to reach out to their citizens to get feedback on service delivery, seek inputs into policy making, and create community based programs. The use of social media in government creates greater transparency, a collaborative relationship with the public, a stronger sense of ownership of government policy and services.  These lead to greater public trust in government.

But social media also brings challenges.  It has been used to spread material which defame abuse or threaten others.  Children who use social media expose themselves to danger.  Social media encroaches on privacy - once information is posted to a social networking site, it is no longer private. It has also facilitated the spread of inappropriate content.

Social media has great potential as a development tool and it can also do a lot of harm to individuals, communities and societies.  This way it is important for government to develop a policy that would harness the potential of social media to do good and mitigate its dangerous effects.

Since the introduction of internet in 1999, the number of internet users especially the social media is gaining popularity among the urban educated population. Many of the users use social media on a daily basis to interact, network and share information. Social media is also widely used to “express views and opinions on socio-political and economic issues” Bhutan Information and Media Impact Study (BIMIS), 2013.

The highest number of social media users (40.1%) falls between the age group of 18 – 24 years followed by 25 – 34 years (32.4%) as per the BIMIS study report. Owing to the lack of internet literacy and in the absence of a code of conduct to guide the general public in the usage of social media, we have observed people misusing social media.

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