How far has new media changed our way of life?

Author: Chirin Soh
School: Raffles Institution
Year Written: 2020
Grade: A

Advancements in this century have led to the widespread usage of new media such as the Internet. Social networking sites, online news sites and blogs have dramatically reduced the use of traditional media, as seen by the sharp decrease in circulation of print newspapers in recent years. With majority of people in developed countries owning a smartphone, the world population has become highly wired. This has shifted the values of people and made drastic changes to peoples’ lives politically, economically and socially.

New media has firstly allowed for individuals to have entrepreneurial spirit and encouraged innovation globally. The instantaneous speed of new media has changed the way people do business and companies have been adapting to the rise of social media to maintain relevant in the fast-paced society. With efficiency and convenience becoming highly valued in society, new applications have emerged that seek to fulfill this need such as ride-hailing, online shopping and food delivery apps. Entrepreneurship has also become more global. Local firms are able to more easily aim global, such as GoJek, an indonesian firm spreading regionally and in the future, globally. Coding and app creation are also becoming essential skills. More and more people are able to create apps and strike it rich. For instance, the Snapchat co-founder and CEO was only in his 20s when he became a billionaire. This shows that new media has provided the opportunity for anybody regardless of age or background to succeed, as long as he is able to come up with something new. There has also been a rise in digital nomads who travel from place to place to work with just their laptop. The use of new media gives them the freedom in doing the things they want. Hence, new media has changed the world economically in terms of how people do business and make a living.

New media also empowers ordinary citizens to have a voice and brings about social changes. Social media or blogging sites promote the freedom of expression and ease of accessbility. People can bring about changes through online mediums. For instance, the ASL ice bucket challenge went viral globally and spread awareness about this disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. More than 17 million people posted videos online, including Bill Gates and former US president George W. The local straw-free campaign was also started out online by the then 17-year-old Ang Zyn Yee. On a political scale, social revolutions such as Arab Spring was spurred on by social media as protesters organised protests on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Citizens could express their disastisfaction with their governments and be united to create change. The power of new media has also proved effective for raising funds and doing charity to improve society. After the Manchester bombings, the hashtag #roomformanchester trended as locals and hotels opened up their doors to stranded concert goers. Online sites such as also alerts people to various crises going around the world and provides the channels for individuals to donate. Social media has thus managed to connect people from all parts of the world and made it easier for one to make a difference in anothers’ life.

Social connectivity that transcends geographical boundaries, as well as social alienation, are also products of new media media. It has allowed people to be connected with others from all over the world through various common interests. Young Internet users now have online friends and they bond over shared music taste, political views, etc. New media has also changed the dating scene. Almost half of milennials have used an Internet dating service or app at one point in their life. This has expanded the reach of single’s social networks, facilitating interactions between people who might never have crossed paths otherwise. However, negative impacts on dating might be how it has influenced people to choose partners based on more superficial reasons or the fact that people who meet online may have be too different for a long-lasting relationship. New media also presents the new problem of social alienation due to addiction to the virtual world. People, young and old alike, are glued to their mobile phones. The Guardian revealed that people spend 3 to 4 hours on social media alone. This means one sixth of the day is detached from human reality, isolated from meaningful face to face interactions. Studies have shown that teens who use social media heavily are more likely to feel socially isolated and experience more loneliness. This is due to the lack of personal touch and ability  to form deeper connections with other people. Hence, although people become more wired in the modern world with new age, they are also more alienated and distant from the real world.

New media also destabilizes society and poses threats to global and national security. Social media has been known to be a terrorist breeding ground and terrorist organisations such as ISIS frequently use it to recruit vulnerable individuals. These people are typically isolated from society and easily radicalised. There is also the increased fake news on modern forms of media that poses a threat to the stability of a society. For instance, there was a claim by the Leave side in the Brexit that 350 million pounds a week would be taken from the UK’s contribution to the EU’s budget and put into National health service. This piece of information was untrue and unverified but circulated widely due to the fast speed of new media, influencing the beliefs of many voters. There was also the false news of Pope Francis endorsing Trump as a presidential candidate. This was shared a million times on Facebook and shows the great outreach that new media has and its impact of key political outcomes. Much personal data is also being put online for access to firms and governments, but also for criminals and organisations with ill intent. Personal data is often used for commercial interests of large companies. Google and Facebook track users’ interests and online activity to earn money from targeted advertisements. Data can also be bought on where one lives, how much they spend on shopping or even one’s cellphone number. A notable case is the Cambridge Analytica incident where almost 87million facebook user data was collected without their knowledge and used to influence their voter opinion on behalf of the politician who hired Cambrdige Analytica. The misuse of personal data infringes human rights of privacy but most policies in the world have yet to keep up with how new media is changing our lives in this aspect.

In conclusion, new media has had drastic impacts on the way we live our lives in both positive and negative ways. There ought to be safeguards such that the social fabric is protected by having certain guidelines and limitations. Gatekeepers should exists such as regulations to new media or education on how to reap the greatest benefits of this new way of life.