The successful impact of social media even for peace mediation is visible across dimensions of human civilization. From businesses, government, and private holdings to its role play in conflict prevention; the digital tools are in action continuously. However, one cannot ignore its negative impact. And as responsible users, one needs to understand how best to harness its power to bring a positive change in times of geopolitical crisis.
Social media should be channeled to influence positive change. In recent years, social media and digital tools have experienced a powerful force in peace mediation, both locally and internationally. In some cases, Human rights groups have been successfully organizing protests through social media to safeguard the democratic process. While in some other instances, neither of the parties in conflict has effectively been using social media tools in getting a better insight into crowd mentality and group dynamics to counter extremism.
However, this righteous picture isn’t true of every situational crisis. Some groups utilize Social media to drive violence and radicalization through campaigns that misinform audiences. The misusing of free, fast, and concentrated communication outweighs the benefit of a few but to the disadvantage of larger masses. This poses a big challenge for regulators.
As much as social media can help spread peace and encourage dialogue amongst conflicting groups; it can also aggravate the situation when misused by miscreants to fuel the differences. The phenomenal growth of Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube is evidence of how our lives have been influenced by online engagement. And this momentum was further accelerated by the easy access to social media platforms. This applies practically to everyone with a mobile phone. Undeniably, social media has the power to influence not only the private sector but also governments and policymakers, causing ripples across the political spectrum.
The internet density and the growing popularity of mobile phone usage are hitting the mark. And, it is now imperative that we realize the hidden power of social media. We must, therefore, constructively use it as a catalyst to drive positive change. Social media can be instrumental in social mobilization for peaceful protests.
For instance, the Arab Spring movement was an anti-government campaign, but, is a good example of protesters using social media to organize demonstrations. It rapidly spread its message for social and political change. The use of social media poses a boon in democratic geographies. And, it has been also been the biggest concern for dictatorships. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are restricted in China, Iran, and North Korea.
Social media presents us with immense opportunities and possibilities that can oscillate between the good, bad and ugly. International politics have experienced its meddling with democratic elections to encourage violence and suppress dissent. Some fractions are utilizing it to recruit members to terrorist groups. In fact, there are ample cases where social media has stirred conflict rather than prevent them. But in the same breath, we must give social media credit for transforming nations through its power of having a positive impact in regions of conflict.
Social media can be strategically used as an agent of change. The ‘One Billion Rising’ movement shows how social media tools are positively utilized to bring about a meaningful change. It can also spread awareness to end social issues like domestic violence. Given the positive aspects of social media, it has the power to transform communities and even governments. When it comes under the control of unbiased mindsets, it can be an instrument of peace by encouraging positive dialogue and promoting mutual understanding.
The power of social media for peace mediation has immense potential to change our lives. Therefore, using it for the larger benefit of humankind is a crucial step in developing its reputation as a changemaker with a positive impact.