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Social media a double-edged sword
Published on: Saturday, March 31, 2018

By Assoc Prof Dr Ali Salman
THERE is no system or application that is perfect.

With information and communication technology and its related systems, we are experiencing a situation where a lot is desired in the course of using the Internet and its applications, including social media.

This is not to say social media is evil. Rather, it is a tool for engagement and has both positive and negative consequences depending on how it is used. Social media is a double-edged sword where both edges are sharp.

Its use can be seen in the analogy of a knife, which can be a tool for cutting food but can also be used to commit a crime.

In today’s world of globalisation, social media has become part of our lives, and we use it in our day-to-day activities like socialising, getting information and learning. However, there have been several negative issues emanating from the misuse of social media which calls for some form of intervention in how we use it for communication and interaction.

There is no denying the fact that social media has revolutionised the way we interact with one another as a family, with friends and at work.

Unfortunately, the excessive use of social media is making users anti-social. Look around and you will see users of social media engrossed in their gadgets, neglecting the people around them.

Fake news has become a thorn in the flesh especially of civil society and even governments.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak spoke of his concern recently over the dangers of fake news and called for action to address the situation.

The Facebook founder himself admitted to this problem and promised to fix it this year.

There was a hue and cry in the run-up to and the aftermath of the US presidential election in 2016 as the volume of fake news increased and social media got the share of the blame.

When sharing information on social media, issues of ethics and integrity should be of the utmost concern.

Simply sharing information without background checks may be dangerous because information once shared cannot be retracted. One may say we can now delete messages on social media.

That’s true, but once the message is posted, deleting it later might be too late and the damage may have been done. As the saying goes, better be careful than sorry.

The consequences may involve other parties, including family, friends, colleagues and even the authorities, especially if your comments or what you shared damage the reputation of others.

There are still social media users out there who think they can avoid being traced.

But the same technology that allows you to be anonymous also makes it easier for you to be traced.

By the very nature of social media, there are facilities that can lead to empowerment.

In the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), social media and other digital technologies would become the dominant platform connecting us. Those who are not adept at using this technology would be left behind.

The 4IR is where physical things are connected, in other words the Internet of Things (IoT).

The concept of IoT dates back to 1999 and was coined by Kevin Ashton, a British technology pioneer.

Physical objects are made “smart” by connecting them to the Internet using universal sensors.

It will also have an effect on the way we produce things.

Like any other communication tool or medium, use of social media requires some checks and balances.

Thus, some sort of limit to overcome the overwhelming presence of social media is necessary.

In addition to existing and future laws, media literacy and awareness campaigns are very crucial.

Users have to make wise and informed decisions and this is where social media literacy comes in.

It can be nurtured through campaigns like the “Tak Nak” push against cigarettes a few years ago.

Our social fabric is fragile and should be handled with care by not allowing social media to break us.

Hence, think before you share, post or comment on social media.

Assoc Prof Dr Ali Salman Social media researcher and advocate Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor

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