Over two-thirds of Internet users are on social media. It’s easy to say that social media is one of the key players in the rise of new media and it also changed the way people communicate (or find information). Is this the future of media? Does social media and form new media technologies a symbol of decentralised communication?
Let’s delve closer into the media ecosystem and how it’s evolved through the years – and how it continues to evolve today and in the future.
The Rise of New Media
How do you define “new media?” The best way to do that is to compare it to the old or traditional forms of media.
The latter is defined by its ties with a specific media platform, such as TV, radio, or newspaper. These communication platforms served as the primary way for most people to listen to the news, learn about global affairs, and access general information. In most cases, the information presented as "news" is accepted by the viewers, listeners, or readers as "facts".
However, we are all aware of how the Internet changed that. It offered a new way for people to find and consume information. When it first became available in the early 1990s, experts and media professionals were optimistic about its impact on communication and media, particularly when it comes to its educational and economic value. More than three decades later, the Internet has surpassed the potential that experts had predicted, and it has become more mainstream at an exponential scale that it is deeply embedded into people’s everyday lives.
To give you some insight, there are over 7.7 billion people in the world and nearly half of that is online (3.5 billion, to be exact). With more people on social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter, about one in three people are using social media or the Internet to communicate.
The rise of new media is not just limited to the human craving for information, though. It has evolved into other forms of platforms such as helping people find partners, access the news, or spark political change. It gave people a platform that was never once available to them. Whereas traditional media platforms offered a one-way form of communication, new media gave them a voice.
Challenges in the New Media World
Social media and the Internet are the so-called future of new media., there are positive effects on society. However, it is not without its own set of challenges. One example of that is an epidemic that is spreading all over social media sites, especially Facebook – the concept of “fake news”.
According to Pews Research, users they surveyed claim that they regularly encounter false news on social media. This was especially evident in political campaigns and fake news could easily spread and be embraced as “facts”. People consume the information from a place of bias, not reliability and trust. The constant reliance on social media as a source of information has also denied people the opportunity to conduct in-person discussions for political news and relevant information.
Aside from the potential to spread misleading information, there is also the concept of filtering the new media. Social media and communication platforms are giving users more control over the information they see on their feeds. The level of customisation is good so that you can filter information based on your interests and preferences. However, it also serves to narrow down your vision and perspective of life instead of opening you up to new ideas and welcoming new perspectives.
This study published by CNN reveals that Facebook (one of the top social media sites) is making more people narrow-minded. This is one of the worst crises faced by the new media since these sites were initially intended to connect people and discover new ideas. Instead, it isolates people, facilitates confirmation biases, and divides people into groups. It's making people more closed off from others, especially those who don't share their beliefs, ideals, and political views.
These major issues are at the forefront of the challenges that the new media ecosystem has introduced to society. There are also pressing issues about spam, lack of privacy, and ownership.
How Decentralised Platforms Improve the Ecosystem
Based on the features and capabilities of new media discussed above, there are many benefits to decentralised platforms. Here are some of them:
1. Users don’t have to participate in the trust-based system. More new media users are losing trust in major corporations like Facebook, Instagram, and Google. Therefore, users don’t trust these corporate giants with their personal and private data. Decentralisation addresses this issue because you don't have to entrust your data to a central authority.
2. No more censorship. One of the biggest instigators of the push towards decentralisation in new media was the level of censorship seen on social media. YouTube, for example, banned many channels and videos for content that was not in line with their policies. The idea of censoring content defied the free speech that these platforms were supposed to champion in the first place.
3. Empowered individual users, not media giants. Since users have control in a decentralised communication platform, media and corporate giants no longer have control over the type of information shared. There is a lesser possibility for these platforms to be used to push political biases and hidden agendas.
4. Reducing numbers of fake news. The existed social media platforms heavily rely on algorithmic gatekeeping, which means the more engagements a feed earned, the more audience can be reached. Hence, media outlets or creators tend to leverage their content by creating juicy materials, namely fake news. As decentralised does not share the algorithmic feature, a reduction in the number of fake news is expected. Furthermore, the open-source platforms allow different communities to take part in content approval, in other words, there are more filters for content distribution.
How Should Content Creators Adapt?
The decentralised new media also impacts the creator’s economy in a significant way. Therefore, a content creator must learn how to adapt to this new ecosystem. So, what does decentralisation mean for a content creator?
First off, it allows content creators to push their creativity to the limit. Without the fear of censorship, you can focus on building quality content. You no longer have to appeal to scheming engagement tactics just to get your content to go ‘viral’. It allows more room for content creation and innovation.
Decentralisation will continue to push forward and that's a good thing for content creators. Platforms like Instagram and Tiktok have opened the door for content creators to explore various niche markets and unlock monetisation opportunities, regardless of the size of their following. With the right content, it's easy to achieve virality or relevance to your target audience.
The future of new media is bright. Expect it to continue to break known barriers, which is a good thing because everyone becomes an active participant instead of pandering to a central authority that holds the strings.