Social Media: A False Forum of Freedom

With the rise of social media as a means to both create and share news, it is often posited that social media enables a further expansion of the democratic qualities of journalism. Shifting away from the typical power structures of tradition journalism – where corporate news institutions define the citizen’s understanding of the world through texts and images – social media has enabled citizen journalists with a means of reaching the masses and, in turn, an opportunity to create a more informed and educated public.

It sounds somewhat idyllic. A journalistic landscape in which the power rests with the people. Ordinary citizens acting as the their own informers; enabling a fourth estate model  independent from the pressures of corporate men in fancy suits and pretentious neck-ties prioritising profit over truth. Down with the elected oligarchy model that presents itself as true democracy! Shot guys, we did it! Thanks Mr. Zuckerburg and whoever started Twitter.

Yeah, nah…

Within a political context, the idyllic perspective of the impact of social media on news may actually be misguided, as social media seems to be having a strengthening effect on the institutions at the political centre by alienating those at the periphery of the political landscape. For those already engaged, politics is becoming a thicker and denser forest of content, information and debate – but for those on the outside looking in, politics is evolving in to a more exclusive and impenetrable experience, ultimately leading to disengagement. Essentially facilitating the growth in distance between the politically engaged and the excluded periphery.

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