Social Platforms: A Boon for the Net-Smart

It is common to see Singaporeans, especially the younger generations, engrossed with the screens of social platforms on their smartphones, such as Facebook and Twitter, despite in company.

In the beginning, social platforms have been largely used for social purposes including as a convenient and fun way of getting in touch with friends, playing online games as a community, and disseminating news and information to like-minded friends worldwide.

Recently, however, these social platforms appear to serve yet another purpose – in closing the gap between various groups of societies.

A good example would be the General Election 2011 here, whereby several Ministers, using their own Facebook account, released updates about their upcoming rallies, effectively closing up the communication gaps, and keeping the people in touch about recent activities in the community.

Channel NewsAsia Connect, affiliation with MediaCorp Pte Ltd, has also created their own Facebook account to inform viewers about their upcoming highlights of their news report. The Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) has, too, developed an iPhone application for readers to keep up to date with the election news.

Needless to say, be it for social or information purposes, social media have been listed as one of the top few used to communicate information to massive groups of readers – much more virally, compared to the published media, which is restricted by geographical locations for one.

Using social platforms to spread information massively, especially within like-minded communities, has also been much more far-reaching. Lifestyle events such as concert dates can be easily made known to the viewers, through friend’s updates on their Facebook or Twitter account.

Thinking from the perspective of a society which seems to enjoy being engaged rather than informed, social media with its search function and viral nature indeed saves us a lot of trouble to find out the latest news as well as summarised information through published media.

On the other hand, this may result in readers missing out less popular or viral aspects of the news simply due to less fervent readers who would spread the "links" around on the World Wide Web. Do these platforms really allow the readers to receive the factual information as details glide through the hands of many people before reaching another?

The credibility of some information or news from originated source becomes questionable and this is a cause for concern, especially for important decisions like the recent election which may be swayed by the misrepresentation of information in this highly viral and unbalanced platform.

Nonetheless, while the degree of understanding or belief in the content of particular information released from social platforms is subjective to each individual, this does not mean that restrictions should be placed on social platforms, such as handicapping organizations and individuals to post information online or censoring information. Rather, in my opinion, readers should become ‘net-smart’.

Social platforms provide readers with the ease of obtaining the world’s latest news in less than a minute. But instead of believing wholesale the information on the social platforms, readers should and could delve deeper to verify the information provided by doing a simple search or reading online newspapers and credible sources.

Information on the net, whether through websites or social platforms, could be credible or not. But what is important is that readers in reading the information shared or received take an active role in absorbing it rather than a passive role as we more commonly do so with traditional media.

It is up to readers how they comprehend the news, and subsequently performs what is necessary to confirm the facts as shown on their screen. And in evaluating the news from online sources and social medias, readers may get a sense of which and who are more trustworthy and form their opinion as to which source to take with a pinch of salt.

That said, it is always good to take an active role and have in knowledge different perspectives so we may make an informed choice – be it  for new media or traditional media.

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