The benefits of social media are tremendous. And the biggest contributor to it is Facebook. This giant has brought people closer and made the world a really small place. But there are certain limitations to these advantages. One of the most severe implications has been suffered by the news companies. Before we go any further, let us clarify that we are not judging these as good or bad. This is an opinion post and should be taken as such.
Lucrative Lack of Privacy
Due to rampant increase in socialization on online platforms, there has been a complete erosion of privacy. There are certain ‘sensitive’ topics which are dealt in a professional manner by newspapers and broadcast media, maintaining the dignity and privacy of those concerned. Menstruation, pregnancy, birth control- subjects that had earlier been relatively less explored by news companies are now all over the social media.
The freedom afforded to Facebook has unfortunately been denied to news companies. They cannot discuss anything in any manner they like, or comment on any other person’s activities. Since it’s a human tendency to take interest in another person’s secrets, this freedom to Facebook has given it an edge over news companies and is destroying for them their forum of discussion.
Advantage of Anonymity
People can say whatever they like, bash whomever they want to, criticise or do any such thing on Facebook. The same luxury is not provided to news companies. People who put forward their views and opinions on news channels are held accountable for the same. Thus news-tellers often think twice before they can express openly on news channels. Some might argue that even Facebook reveals the identity of the users but there are Facebook groups and pages where you can request anonymity (in addition, in certain cases, another anonymous accounts can also be created) to their respective admins but the same cannot be said about the news companies. This tilts the scale heavily in favour of Facebook because there have been cases where a person has expressed his opinion on a news channel and has been threatened for it. Anonymity is a big advantage on Facebook’s side and a major cause for killing the business of the news companies. The faceless people are spared the responsibility of their word, their comments and do not have to face the aftermath of their opinions. But professional journalists are held accountable if and when they do the same.
News companies are bound by professional ethics. They have to take account of people’s feelings when someone dies or when there is a mishap. Moreover, they cannot report anyone’s death before their families know; cannot copy anyone’s work and have to take up intense fieldwork and research to get the facts right before they are ready to report. But on Facebook, anyone can post anything. Since the burden to provide correct information rests on the shoulders of the news companies, they cannot even make ordinary human errors. We often forget that news companies are also run by people and it is okay to cut some slack. But they are questioned on their credibility. Facebook users can be as incredulous as they want to without being held accountable for anything. This ‘user-friendly’ atmosphere of Facebook has led people to turn to it when they want to share anything rather than heading on to news companies. Then there is the issue of moral values. Though some might shun this concept but there is a vast majority that believes in them. Facebook users often show their indifference to human sufferings. There are no regulations whatsoever regarding this issue. This gives some people a platform to vent out their anger and frustrations without caring about others.
Law and the Liability
Facebook users are free to speak to anyone who would listen. They are not bound strictly by any law. But the news companies are bound by the laws of the land. One piece of incorrect information, and they can be sued. On Facebook, anyone can say anything however they want to. But if news companies sound too rude, they can be held for libel, contempt of court or refusing anonymity to juveniles. However, the same things can be done on Facebook and users may go scott-free. Of course, there are laws and ways to find out who said what on a social network. But the ability to simply erase a post, or use anonymous account and post from unknown locations adds to the freedom of expression and provides escape routes from the clutches of law.
Extinction of the
The word ‘breaking news’ is almost lost now, with the advent of Facebook. The efforts of news companies are going in vain as the ‘news’ element is seemingly fading out from the face of the people. No news is novel as it is already out there on the Internet. This takes the competitive spirit out of the news companies to first report the news. So if an Internet user’s camera took the picture first, it can get to people first. This leaves the news companies desperate to find out more and fast.
The Juvenile Audience
The present generation would opt to interact and learn through Facebook rather than through news channels and newspapers. This would expose their developing minds to the bitterness of the opinions of certain group of people and keep them away from accuracy and reality. It would mean less productivity and creativity out of them and hence their future (read ‘our future’) shall be doomed. News channels broadcast programs with accurate and monitored content which spark enthusiastic debates of experts and professionals rather than a layman’s personal opinions. The children would be bereft of this intellectual meeting of minds. Teachers and professors claim that with the advent of social media, children no longer read books and newspapers. They also lose the ability to communicate. This has two harmful effects for the news companies. First is that they lose business. Their entire section meant for children goes in vain. Second is a far reaching consequence. If the next generation loses creativity and communication skills, it would be difficult for the survival of news companies which would need them as future journalists or readers.
Expression of opinions
One of the biggest problems with any kind of media is the type of opinion the content on their network generates. So if majority of people in a specific area support video games for minors and the same is banned for them by the government, a news company will have to take the lash of anger from its audience. Whereas, on facebook, anything, regardless of content, if the content gets popular, it is spread to more people. Also, it is difficult to aggregate the opinions on facebook (thanks to the way commenting works there) and adding to that, the benefit of anonymity helps fuel the engagement which is otherwise not present for other types of media.
That’s all we have to say about what we observe. We are not saying news companies are doomed. They are very much alive and kicking as of now. But for how long is the real question. With plethora or blogs on every topic and easy access to them does bring its own results on mainstream media.