There and quicker for them to socialize with relatives

There is certainly no period in which
social media is of great importance and relevance as the twenty-first century (Carr,
2008), and this is proved by the visible widespread use and appreciation of the
several social medial platforms that are supported largely by technological
advancement and increased awareness of the value of information and
communication. Social media is one tool that has helped human beings to have
instant communication and information-sharing by eliminating the time and geographical
distance barriers. Just like in the United States and other advanced countries,
in Malaysia, social media has brought about changes in almost every aspect of
modern life. The discovery of the www (World Wide Web) and the internet as a
whole can be considered the most impressive innovation of man at least up to
this moment. Today, this invention has supported the emergence and the success
of social media, the latter of which is now taking the world by storm. As Gladwell
(2010) affirms, social media can be described simply as a techno-social system that
makes it possible and easier for individuals, groups and organizations to have
interactions centered on technological networks. The objective of this paper is
to evaluate and comprehensively bring out the role played by social media in the
social and political contexts of Malaysia.

A recent survey carried out on
ninety-eight university freshmen in Malaysia aged between eighteen and
twenty-three years came out with the finding that most of the participants were
actively using Facebook and Twitter on a daily basis (Kalinga, 2007). In
addition, the respondent also confirmed making frequent use of image and video
sharing apps such as Instagram and Pinterest. When asked the reason behind
their regular use of social media sites and applications, the participants
unanimously affirmed that they make it easier and quicker for them to socialize
with relatives and friends in addition to finding useful information. They also
stated that the influence of social media in their daily life was evident in
learning, language, entertainment and communication aspects. On the basis of
these discoveries, the scholars made a conclusion that social media has played
a very important complementary role to the mass or mainstream media, and is a
valuable instrument in the day-to-day social life of the young generation in
Malaysia and other parts of the world.

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The widespread use and appreciation
of social media and the internet has not only brought forth positive but also
negative implications to the social life of Malaysians, especially with regards
to the manner in which their free time is spent. Being that some of the young
citizens exhibit the symptoms of social media addiction, it is not unusual to
find them idling in front of personal computers, tablets or phones to the
extent that there is no time for physical activities or exercises. As some
experts in the field of human interaction and communication explain, and as Gladwell
(2010) agrees in his book ‘Small change: Why the revolution will not be
tweeted’, the quality of communication has fairly been threatened by social
media. Because of the social media platforms, most of the individuals prefer
linking up with their close friends and family ‘online’, and this has seriously
affected the effectiveness of the natural one-on-one communication. It is very
easy, for instance, to find a Malaysian youth in the company of his family but
instead of sharing the social time with the family, they are glued on their
phones or tablets chatting with ‘strange’ friends who they can only see or talk
to via social media networks.

The factor that makes social media
that popular among the youths is its ability to facilitate instant
communication and content sharing. Many of the young and even older individuals
in the country have said their love for social media is based on the fact that
it does not only quicken and ease interaction but also gives one the
opportunity of creating and sharing creative content with the global audience. In
his article ‘Is Google making us stupid?’ Carr (2008) suggests that social
media can create an ideal writer, journalist or content developer. This is
because it provides people with a platform for viewing their suggestions,
perceptions and opinions without any limitation whether in terms of distance or
time. Today, social media has made it practically easier for information form
one person to be disseminated all over the world within the least time possible
at very affordable costs. Generally, the Malaysians’ social life can be said to
be largely reliant on social media owing to the effectiveness and efficiency of
communication realized as a result of the use of the same.

The role played by social media on
the daily life of Malaysian citizens covers not only the social but also the
political sphere. As a result of strong manifestation of social media, the
Malaysian political scope has seen recognizable change. The country’s incumbent
government that had had the full backing of the mainstream media, during the
general elections held back in 2008, seriously lost to the wobbly coalition of
the opposition. As a way of acknowledging the strength of social media, Tun
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was the then Prime Minister, made a declaration on
March 25th the same year, that the reason behind the ruling
government’s loss of the online battle with the opposing parties during the
elections was the miscalculation of the strength of social media (Bode, 2012). According
to him, during that time, the ruling party highly prioritized the mainstream
media to the extent of managing to overlook the value of social media, and this
also catalyzed the poor performance in the elections. As was unexpected by the
ruling party, the loose opposing coalition ensured it completely engaged social
media platforms in reaching its target audience.  Not only has the social media been useful in
the dissemination of information and sharing political views in Malaysia, it
has as well contributed substantially in the organization and even success of
political campaigns, which makes it an inseparable part of the country’s
political environment.  

In conclusion, claiming that the
level of use and relevance of social media in Malaysia is average is factually
an understatement. If anything, researchers have observed that the way in which
the Malaysians use social media in their social and political life is more than
skyrocketing to say the least. There is no doubt that because of the prevalence
of social media in the country as well as may other countries around the world,
the way in which citizens socialize and share political opinions has taken a
whole new shape. Perhaps this is why Malaysia is today being regarded as one of
the heaviest embracers of social media and communication technologies by
extension. It is however important to note that many other nations, including
the United States and United Kingdom, have also realized the need to embrace
social media in their daily communications. 

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