The new media communications revolution is changing every facet of our lives. Unlike traditional mediums such as newspapers, TV and the radio, new media allows a two-way flow of communication whereby users can comment, judge, discuss and share contents uploaded on the Internet effortlessly and instantaneously, using both named and anonymous identities.
Media practitioner Moussly (2011) has also pointed out that readers of the present news generation are not just purely active producers of the repurposed contents, they are also “capable of physically capturing events the corporate media might or choose to miss, in times of crisis” (¶ 8).
Furthermore, given the features of anonymity, timeliness, and high interactivity, new media is able to grant us greater freedom of speech and power to influence, which will allow it play a crucial role in the dissemination of contents in future.
A prime example to illustrate how new media was used as a vital communication tool, would be the recent Tunisia incident.
It was reported by Al Jazeera, the most influential Arabic news network, that the Tunisians were making use of social media networks like Youtube and blogs to hold protests over the dramatic death of a university student, whose actions were believed to be driven by the chaotic political situation in Tunisia.
Not only that, live coverage of protests and speeches, were made possible with the aid of such social media platforms. Facebook and Twitter groups were also created to keep the thousands of participants updated about the developments and mobility for subsequent actions (Miladi, 2011).
Such efforts then attracted international media attention, and followed by strong international public opinions, which propelled the local government to swiftly kick-start development projects to improve the country’s devastating situation.
Hence, from the case of Tunisia, we can see that new media has been an effective tool in raising global awareness of a dire situation, which ultimately led to a solution.
Similarly, in the context of Singapore, new media can be used as a communication tool between the government and its people, especially for the implementation of new regulations and policies. The set-up of the Facebook group “Reach Singapore” represents the government’s significant efforts to gather public opinions.
Some examples are the discussions on the recent property cooling measures and the Bill on re-employment of Older Workers. People are able to comment or provide constructive feedback about these issues through web texts and video discussions with the Parliament members in the mentioned social media sites.
In addition, the government is also allowing political videos and campaign materials for the coming General Elections to be published online. The Facebook group “Vote for change, Vote the PAP out” which attracted near to 7,000 members within a short time, has once again proved the strong influential powers new media has on the general public (Tan, 2010).
The effectiveness of New Media is better enhanced through a recent research by Nielsen (2011) that more than half of the Singapore population is actively participating in at least one social media platform in their daily lives (Shafawi, 2011).
Thus, with such high penetration rates, it is believed that the new media could create a “network effect”, fostering bonding and trust among the authorities and the people through intensive web interactions (Lievrouw & Livingstone, 2002).
However, sociologists argued that the abundance of digital data might cause the problem of information overload. A study conducted over Yahoo have presented that 70% of the respondents admit to spending valuable hours sifting through less-credible or irrelevant contents (Miller, 2009).
As a frequent web user, I do encounter such situations. However, such problems can be resolved by questioning ourselves whether the sources we use have any underlying motives, or if the organization has any affiliations with the government or the opposing party.
More importantly, as responsible new media users, we should selectively draw out information from these websites to counter-check with other available sources to ensure the reliability of the news.
With these steps in place, it will further strengthen the credibility of the Internet, allowing it to become a better source of information and research.
In sum, the prospects of new media are clear. As we enter an era that places great emphasis on freedom of speech, I do believe that new media, given its unique characteristics, will overpower the traditional media, and eventually become the biggest factor of communication in time to come.
Written as part of the assignment for Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Global Issues: Singapore Perspectives.