Social Media and the Death of Distance

Arguably one of the most beneficial aspects of social media is the fact that it has drastically reduced geographical barriers, so Cairncross definitely predicted correctly for the social media genre that there would be a death of distance. Gone are the days where family and friends have to engage in the time-consuming process of hand writing a letter, purchasing a stamp, dropping it off at the US Postal Office, and waiting for 3 days for the letter to be delivered just to wish them a happy birthday. Instead, now individuals can send messages to others in a matter of minutes. The internet was the main creation responsible for connecting users, but social media gives individual users a voice and a platform to be heard.

According to the Social Science Computer Review (2014), social media are becoming an important intermediary for interaction between governments, governments and citizens, and governmental agencies and businesses, because of the openness, participation, and sharing capabilities offered. This is certainly evident by the number of U.S. agencies that now have accounts on social media sites, such as CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, DEA, and many more, not to mention state and local government representatives. Companies are also using social media to connect with users and establish a more personal relationship. According to the Public Relations Review (2011), philanthropic companies such as the Red Cross find practicing public relations through social media both effective and necessary. They believe it creates a two-way dialogue with younger constituents, the media, and the community. This type of appeal leads to greater awareness and involvement. As Daniel Newman mentions in his article (2012), the death of distance via social media is an opportunity for individuals to better collaborate, communicate and innovate through opportunities and challenges in the future. When something controversial happens in the news, one of the first things people do is pick up their phone and take to social media to share their views. This was extremely evident with the Ferguson protest. Users were able to connect with others all over the country to stage local protests and unite in the fight. This outrage has sparked a national debate and led to reformed police tactics.

The positive benefits of being able to express opinions are also met with the downsides, as seen by the Washington Post article written by Seva Gunitsky (2015), in which he proclaims that social media is a safe and relatively cheap way for rulers to discover private grievances and policy preferences of their people. This is the negative part of reducing distance, bringing dictators closer to the dissent and allowing them to punish people for having opinions. Social media has certainly given rise to the death of distance, in more positive ways than negative. It has given individuals the opportunity to connect with others far away and have their voice be heard.

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