Neophiliacs argue that the internet and social media have been beneficial to society and individuals. New Media have created more opportunities for individuals to find information, offered individuals greater choice and freedom, provided new ways for people to interact with each other, and ultimately resulted in more people challenging the powerful and economic growth.
This post has been written for A-level sociology students studying the media option, AQA specification, and contrasts directly with the cultural pessimist view of new media.
Easier access to more information and advice
The internet makes it very easy to access a wide variety of information about almost anything, often for free. Some of the more obvious examples here include Wikipedia and instructional videos on YouTube and various blogs where many experts will provide their expertise for free.
24 hour news coverage from a variety of sources and the option to switch on instant notifications also makes it very easy to stay in touch with what’s occurring in the world.
Increasingly it is possible to ‘hack’ an education online, as many colleges and universities post up their learning materials for free (often lectures on YouTube) and there are various blogs around in which people have put together syllabuses which link to free information.
The internet also makes it easier for people to seek advice confidential advice and support for sensitive issues such as mental health issues, abuse and addiction.
Greater individual freedom and choice
Social media allow people the chance to construct new online identities and give them greater freedom to express themselves than ever before. Online, individuals can experiment with new identities in the comfort of anonymity and expand their personal boundaries.
Social media and blogs have proven to be an accessible way for marginalised or disadvantaged peoples to find a voice – there are many active LGBT and disabled bloggers for example.
New social networks and global connections
The internet has blurred the boundaries between the local and the global, resulting in the emergence of a ‘new global village’, with more daily communicative interactions occurring now than ever in human history.
The global internet makes it easier for individuals to make new global connections that wouldn’t be possible just at the local level or through traditional (one-way) media – as a result of social media sites like Facebook there are now thousands of new ‘tribes’ with millions of people interacting on a daily basis.
Social media apps also make it easier for families and friends to stay in touch anywhere in the world, and while nothing new, this opens up the possibility for people to move to other places yet still stay connected.
Challenging power and revitalising democracy
The internet allows people to access a wide variety of political opinions and commentary and to easily ‘fact check’ what politicians are saying, making it easier to hold those with political power to account.
There are thousands of blogs which voice radical political opinions which challenge the dominant mainstream neoliberal voice in the mainstream news.
The internet has also provided a platform for many social movements and allowed them to expand the reach of their voice and activism. Extinction Rebellion is one of the best recent examples of this, with many of their protests being organised via social media.
All of these points apply equally as well to holding Corporate as well as political power to account.
The growth of E-commerce
The internet has made it very easy to buy all sorts of goods and services, and for very cheap prices if you shop via the largest sites such as Amazon.
Comparison sites allow people to easily compare the costs of utilities and other services, and to easily switch to the best deal, which is empowering for consumers.
Finally, the internet has also allowed thousands of people to set up or enhance their business – by selling goods and services online.
This is a very brief ‘list post’ – more depth posts (and references) to follow later in 2019!