Social media powerful, but print here to stay

While social media is making deep inroads in the dissemination of information among people, traditional media forms such as newspapers are here to stay. And while the increased use of technology, like the Internet, as a tool of expression and communication was welcome, care must be taken to ensure that it does not degenerate into misuse and abuse.

The two points were the major outcome of a roundtable on ‘The power of social media’ organised by the US Consulate General here to mark World Press Freedom Day on Friday (May 3).

With US Consulate General press and information officer Heera Kaur Kamboj acting as moderator, social media experts Sorav Jain and Kiruba Shankar waxed eloquent on the growing power of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. “They are changing the way we conduct business, communication and personal perspectives,” the duo said

“There are 110 million Internet users and 62 million on the Facebook in India,” according to Sorav Jain, who teaches social media marketing and personal branding at Madras Advertising Club. “This five per cent of our population is the most affluent and educated.”

Pointing to the role played by social media in the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare and the Delhi gang-rape incident, he said many journalists were now directly reaching out to social networking sites to assess what the people were thinking. “During Hurricane Sandy in US, people reached out to journalists through photographs.”

Echoing him, Kiruba Shankar said social media provided a platform for people to express themselves.

“Since time immemorial, three things have not changed – the need to communicate, the need to do business and the need to engage the opposite sex,” he pointed out.

And social media facilitated all the three.

The speakers, however, agreed that unlike the US, where the newspaper industry was facing a downslide, print media was actually growing in Asian countries India and China.

People in rural areas still depended on newspapers and television channels for information due to lack of Internet facilities, they said. “However, if newspapers have online network, they can reach out to more people.”

In an interaction with the audience, the two panelists conceded that social media was also being increasingly abused. “Some people are using it to spread hatred,” Kiruba Shankar rued. “Children are also getting addicted to the Internet,” he said.

Former vice-chancellor of Bharathidasan University, Trichy, Mani Sundaram said there must be more face-to-face communication than reliance on technology.

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