The publicized effects of social media often list decreased interaction outside of the cyber world, but new studies show social media is increasingly being used to further, not harm relationships and revolutions alike.
Hammerli Sriya, a Texas Tech political science doctoral student from Bangkok, Thailand, is writing her dissertation over social media.
She said social media appeals to a group of younger people who don’t operate in what have in the past been conventional ways.
“(The younger generation) don’t go vote, they don’t do anything the way that has been done in the past,” she said, “so social media gives them a way to make their voices heard and participate.”
According to the Pew Research Center, social networking sites are now being used to keep close social ties, revive dormant relationships and keep users politically engaged.
The average social media user, according to the organization, has more close relationships and is half as likely to be socially isolated than the average American who doesn’t participate in social networking.
“The connections are limitless,” she said. “You can talk to someone from across the world and engage in conversations and debates. Social media is a new way to connect people.”
The number of cross-national friendships is growing, reflected by the 1.4 billion Facebook users worldwide, and the fact Facebook has been ranked the most addicting social media site, according to The Media Revolution.
This phenomenon is not only confined to Facebook, as 40 million tweets are sent from Twitter daily and every second 8,000 people like a photo on Instagram, according to Statistic Brain.
“Social media helps mobilize people so they can do something in a different way,” Sriya said. “With social media, you don’t have to wonder if you’re the only one that feels one way or another. You can learn that there are 100,000 other people out there that feel the same way as you, and you don’t feel alone.”
This increased camaraderie between citizens has led to a rise in the use of social media to not only build relationships, she said, but fuel revolutions as well.
Sriyai said she had friends at home in Thailand that she would see on Twitter or Facebook, using the social media to promote their propaganda and ideals.
“They use social media now because it’s not as controlled,” she said. “Back then you only had TV and cell phones. Government filters the information that gets exchanged through that kind of medium. The government can filter media and what they have to say. In social media, the user is the one that can exchange the information. It’s also the kind of information that goes viral so fast because it’s borderless.”
A company called A Whisper to a Roar is sharing these viral videos and tweets made by revolutionaries in other countries.
The company presents viral videos and films about democracy and injustices in many countries to show the public the behind-the-scenes stories that wouldn’t be shown in main-stream media outlets, Ben Moses, writer, producer and director at A Whisper to a Roar, said.
“Our videos represent the power of normal individuals in a social media world,” he said. “These people have a spirit and a deep caring for their people and when you hear them you just understand.”
While the social media movement is currently booming, there isn’t an anticipated date for it to become irrelevant, according to the Pew Research Center.
The experts at the organization, after examining their data and speaking with many social media users, believe the generation of Millennials social media is so popular with today will continue to use it and introduce it to many generations to come.
“I don’t think social media will die out,” Sriyai said. “I only think it will change and be used to fuel domestic stability because this new generation is committed to letting their voice be heard and social media allows for that.”