Social media once used primarily for sharing photos and exchanging different updates with friends has turned into a whole new world where people share and express ideas about the issues of the world as well as gather in ‘common-interest’ groups to get daily updates along a new flow of information. Nowadays social media is not only used for self-representation purposes in the form of  ‘status updates’ or ‘tweets’,but also became a alternative for second lives. By using the never ending variety of social media tools, one is able to create an online environment where anything is possible. Evidently, the general purpose of social media sites is to provide people with the possibility to create content, to connect with each other and to share values. In this sense, social media is not only a new type of activity online, it is a lifestyle, a permanent occupation as well as a social burden. In other words, if you dont have a profile on one of the social media websites of the modern society, YOU DONT EXIST! At this point one can debate whether the existence of social media benefits the society as a whole or not, however I believe that its each and every individual’s personal dilemma to think about.

Given the fact that social media websites are one of the most popular creations of the digital era it is inevitable that sooner or later people would start using it for purposes that it might not be meant for. Being aware of such a site’s advantages – such as global reach, anonymity, cheap advertising tools and solutions…etc – does not necessarily mean that these attributes will have to be used for unethical purposes. Due to the evolution of the classical consumer to the new era prosumer, online activity nowadays is characterized by a niche culture where people are gathering information, sharing ideas, listening to and giving recommendations, formulating opinions and last but not least INFLUENCING others. Influence is a great inborn gift, however if not used carefully it can result in the generation of horrendous movements and ideas. One can debate here whether the freedom of speech or opinion should be restricted in these cases or not. But where is the limit and who is going to define those boundaries between ethical / acceptable behavior and unethical / unacceptable behavior ? This is the million dollar question, and there are continuous debates all over the net about the issue.

What is truly concerning is that in certain times of revolutionary waves (such as the one recently in the Arab world) there is no clear cut distinction between ‘opinion sharing’ and ‘encouragement for radical acts’ . . . Each and every social media site is different in terms of regulation and they all function according to the same principle of freedom of opinion and speech. If we look back to the basics, a new business’ purpose would be to create value. Create value in a way that noone else can do. This would then constitute to the fundamentals of its competitive advantage. However, the question arises.. Will the lenient behavior of social media sites contribute to the creation of value ? Will it be able to justify its principles even when certain parties use their sites to gather a good sum of people with a common purpose of radical activity ? And if not, then is the ever-innovative digital industry supposed to take a step back and set the rules of the game right ?

I believe that this topic is worth to be debated because of the major influence it can have on our society in the future. We have reached a bottleneck where social media is not only used for fun anymore. According to fastcompany.com “Facebook and other social networks are now wrestling as their platforms have become powerful communication and organizing tools by advocates, especially in countries with limits on freedom of expression. Facebook and other companies, trying to maintain a neutral position, have been relying on their existing terms of service to manage the conflicts that arise.”

Of course the possible solutions for this issue would include the reorganization of in-site regulations and laws as well as the strict legislation in case of breach. Once the users are aware of the grave consequences of their social actions (hence understanding that their anonymity is lost and they are responsible for what they preach) they might be reluctant to use social media sites for certain activities that encourage and support radical approaches. In my belief, since many of these provocateurs are highly dependent on their social media life, a threat to the existence of their online presence (profile) should and could be enough to stop them from the radicalization of the web. Nevertheless it can only be considered as a short term, rapid solution for the upcoming problems. In the long term, undoubtedly, the re-establishment of social media ground rules are needed. The creation of these initiatives however primarily depend on the site owners and administrators and as of today they did not seem to be devoted to the rapid solution of the issue.

This is why the ultimate question stays unanswered : How long before we realize that immediate action is needed to preserve the value and purpose of social media ? . . .

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