‘Social News’ is not citizen journalism, but a completely new species, born out of the Social Media phenomenon. The recent Cobrapost expose has established #SocialNews in India, in a big way. While courts put a stay order on the NEWS itself and most major media houses did not carry the NEWS, it still managed to make it to our phones and computer screens. With all its criticism, one needs to give credit where its due- Youtube, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, all came to the rescue as the fourth pillar of democracy shattered under the corporate burden of selling information rather than providing it.
At this moment I would like all of you to give me, rather Mr Bachchan 3 minutes of your life! If you see the video, you can actually call Ram Gopal Verma a visionary, because pretty much exactly the same scenario is playing out in India today.
So from here we come to #SocialNews. “Medium is the message” is term championed by Mr Marshall Mcluhan in his book “Understanding Media : The Extensions of Man” (Though being a feminist, I would like to re-title it as “Extensions of People of #AllGenders”). #SocialNews is as much about the medium as it is about the creator of the content. Though written in 1964, I do believe Mcluhan had it figured out.
Let’s understand the four ideas of rationality, objectivity, subjectivity and literacy.
As it was in the case of radio listeners when compared to television news viewers, one observed a complete paradigm shift between objectivity and subjectivity, I believe we are witnessing a similar phenomenon in case of #SocialNews, the only difference in this being that it is subjectivity on steroids. The reason for this is that we experience #SocialNews on our very personal devices, devices which share and possess our intimate emotions, through which we communicate with our loved ones.Smart phones, laptops, tablets are all extensions of us, hence any experience on it becomes subjective and emotional, pretty much playing opposite to our rationality and literate capacity. The other aspect is the pace at which we receive and return information is phenomenal in today’s day and age, promoting a culture or reaction rather than proactive action.
An important factor that plays a pivotal role is the digital naivety o fthe masses. Technology in India has been associated with the educated class, considered to have a high standard of morality, hence the image of all cyber content is also viewed from that lens.
And the MOST important factor of #SocialNEWS is the competition to catch our attention for the longest duration (As in the cyber world, the longer the content holds a viewer, the higher is the advertising value attached to that property). AIR FM RADIO & DOORDARSHAN never had these battles back in the day hence could have the luxury to inform; today’s day and age is about creating an experience.
Where NEWS is information about the current events, #SocialNews is the experience of that information, it’s a step ahead, a step more closer to what ‘we’ want to hear. It is information, added with our personal views, views which echo our own beliefs.
There are many questions to be answered about #SocialNews
- Is it good?
- Is it bad?
- What can we do about it?
Honestly I have no clue, in fact I am sure no one does, it will take time to figure out its effects. Many studies, many experts and many policies later, we will probably know.