Social Media as a part of Culture Studies and Socio-scientific Research


In todays’ shrinking world of ‘post truth’ and ‘virtual communities‘ fostered by the boom in cybernetics, social media unabashedly serves as the easiest means of disseminating and dismantling information on everyday life ranging from personal, political, social, cultural, medical to the world of glamour and paparazzi creating a deep impact on human behaviour of all ages specially  the youth.  Social media has enabled the users who are mainly self- motivated learners as active and autonomous   co- producers of content. Social media is defined by Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) as “internet based applications that allow the creation and exchange of content which is user generated”. The different forms of social media are-social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook and Linkedin, bookmarking sites like del.icio and Amazon, micro blogging sites like Twitter, media sharing sites like You Tube, social news sites like Digg and Reddit, blogs and forums like WordPress etc.

Though social media is a global phenomenon its cultural constraints needs closer research for managing its abuse and misuse among the youth and illiterate class facilitated by the addictive use of smart phone or android mobiles to bring a check to cyber related crimes and fake news generation. Facebook has the highest amount of users in India with usage variations beginning with habitual pastime, relaxing entertainment to professional advancement, relationship maintenance, competition and social interaction.  It needs more social and academic research as a part of culture studies and media studies for understanding SNS interconnectivity amongst different culture groups with variables of age, gender, literacy rate,  academic performance,  capital market, demographic and socio-economic conditions beyond the generally perceived mental and psychological conditions like regression, narcissism, neuroticism, extroversion, depression etc. that tend to be likely established in the news room and news desk without extensive clinical research.

 Social media has also become an inevitable part of research among students all over the world but India and the North-east in particular still has to go a long way in this field.  India with its fast growing ICT revolution still has a lopsided scenario as according to the 2011 census only 1% of rural population has access to personal computer, laptop or internet access. But in the last couple of years the smart phone and Jio internet service has changed the story and suddenly social media emerged as a holistic technology trying to shape the North-east, an ethnic war zone with technological determinism driven by market forces global as well as local.  According to recent statistics in India  the distribution of users in social media networking is  through 45% mobile devices like smart phone, ipads, kindle etc, 22%  users use desktop computers and 33% users use laptops. Still Northeast happens to feature among the lowest rung of internet penetration level as Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland has lowest level of internet service.  A good amount of research has taken place in several universities worldwide regarding what students thought about their social media usage and factors besides social media usage which negatively affect academic performance.

There is strong evidence that social media can facilitate the creation of Personal Learning Environments for both integrating formal and informal learning and fostering self-regulated learning in higher education contexts. To assist higher education faculty and instructors in scaffolding in the creation of PLEs a pedagogical framework for social media use based on levels of interactivity such as personal information management, social interaction and collaboration and information aggregation and management needs to be formulated. To create an affiliation between higher education and social networking tools like mining algorithms, Like-analyser, Gelphi, Wolfram Alpha and NodeXl can be used to access presence and participation factor of students and education professionals in social network graphs to make a study of how SNS like Facebook and others may be beneficially utilized for higher education. There has been research on the need for the use of Cloud Storage for managing the big data on social media networking that constitute almost 105 terabytes of data for every thirty minutes. Facebook uses Hive for storing the data on HDFS ( Hadoop Distributed File System) while Twitter has implemented a set of solutions storage inside  Hadoop to store data in LZO compressed format. Studies have been made on identity theft detection when using mobiles over unsecure internet connectivity that offers a probable model to conduct experiment on real time data sets and display how the proposed system achieved better performance and response by use of user behaviour analysis as a key parameter for identity theft detection.  The Mass communication departments in the different state and central universities around the North-east can play a vital role in creating an academic milieu for active research on social media around the region and build a global nexus of academic growth of advanced journalism in Northeast India.

Besides pedagogy social media usage can also serve as a model for studying the e-marketing strategies to attract new customers. Research on how business organizations use social networking sites to achieve brand objectives remain limited. Companies have now penetrated the online social networking scene, offering direct links from their respective corporate websites to Facebook and Twitter, and use these tools to promote brands and support the creation of brand communities (Kaplan & Haenlein 2010). In the recent Indian market scenario budgets allocated to digital and social media marketing within the overall marketing budget seems to be increasing. According to a recent study on social media marketing conducted by India Trends Study 2016, 44% of market brands spend more than 20% of their marketing budget on digital marketing while 24% of brands are spending more than 16% or more from their marketing budget on social media. But the matter of concern is that leading brands in India still do not have formal guidelines for how their employees should engage on social media and how the brand will respond in case of an accident.

Among the greatest disadvantages of social media besides the time consumption factor are- cyber bullying, personal data leakage, and addictive behaviour. In recent days the negative role played by social media applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook etc. in propagating false and mischievous information serves to inflame anger and mob fury to satanic levels resulting in cases of lynching. The ministry of Electronics and IT has expressed its concern but it must be made incumbent that these social media platforms monitor their sites and take remedial measures through appropriate technology to prevent proliferation of provocative content. There should be a clear nexus of rules between the Government, the officials of the social media entities, and the techno-savvy generation to have punitive measures for the anti-social and criminal propagation through misuse of cybernetics and social media sites and fake accounts.  The need of the hour is the Enactment of a Social media use act in India, a law that needs to guide the users against the dos and don’ts of social media to bring some restriction to its free flowing proliferation and anti-social applications. It is highly necessary to have a legal framework for adjudicating cyber-crime cases that leads the youth astray and divert the use of social media networking sites in a progressive and positive manner in alignment with higher education policies through appropriate regulation and research.

Dr. Sabreen Ahmed has received her PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in Feb 2013. Her Thesis is entitled “Muffled Voices: The Zenana in the Fiction of Muslim Women Writers from South Asia”under the guidance of Prof Makarand Paranjape. She has done her post- graduation from the University of Delhi (2005) and graduation from Cotton College, Guwahati (2003). Her area of interest is Gender studies, South Asian English Writing and Contemporary Theory. She has published a academic papers in international and national journals and has an anthology of poems entitled Soliloquies to her credit. She also edited a seminar proceeding in book form captioned Indian Fiction in English and the Northeast. Currently she teaches in the Dept of English, Nowgong College, Nagaon, (Assam) as an Assistant Professor.