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.
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.