Expert: Social media not only provoke protests, but can also reshape identities

09.06.2017, USA.

Social media has become an instrument to gradually change people’s identity, said an expert of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace in his report, published on the web-site of the research institution on June 8th.

This refers to recent research on social media influencing youth in different countries. Sociological research focused on Middle Eastern countries. Researchers examined the possibilities of using social media for achieving goals other than the artificial creation of political protest movements. Harel Chorev, the author of the report, states that social media has grown more complex and nuanced, and it has become an instrument of genuine influence on politics and society.

According to Chorev, “Social media also has the power to reshape identities and political relations by flattening old hierarchies. By creating new, highly interactive social arenas and providing information independently of governing authorities, social media has collapsed the traditionally vertical feed of information into a horizontal spread.”

The scientist believes that social media users acquire an illusionary feeling of gaining freedom and independence from their state. But the feeling does not mean that democracy will follow after that. At the same time, social media “offers alternatives to traditional focal points of identity and authority, and allows individuals the independence to reshape their relations with their social and political environment.”

The expert has stressed, that these new communication sites are a new form of community, in contrast to traditional communities. They have their own values; these groups can encourage, condone, or provoke members of society to act on behalf of the stated values, and to exploit the human quality of collectivism.

The researcher states that the current “Generation Z” (children born in 2000s), which is the most vulnerable to social media influence, expresses a pessimistic attitude to life. This means that youth “death groups” are a very easy tool to stir a member of such a society into any action, for example, to abuse other people or to commit suicide.  Chorev gives an example of such a group acting in Palestine. The group bears the name of “The Road To Heaven” and is very effective in working with single people, whom they call “lone wolves”; later such people commit acts of violence.

The topic of social media influence as an instrument of soft power was directly stated in a new “cold war” strategy aimed against Russia, which was published by the Atlantic Council in late March this year. The strategy says that social media must become a key instrument of unification and cooperation between protest groups in Russia.

Source: Rossa Primavera News Agency

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