How does social media shape our minds?

20 Dec 2017 10:00h - 11:45h

Event report

[Read more session reports and live updates from the 12th Internet Governance Forum]

Ms Jianne Soriano, Ambassador at NetMission, opened the session by presenting information on the penetration of the Internet in Asia, and pointed out that Asia has a growing number of young people in the world. It was noted that most of the young people in Asia are using the Internet to access social media. She added that the session, in the form of group discussions, will focus on framing best practices on the use of social media. The session is a follow up of the discussion that took place in the Youth Internet Governance Forum in Bangkok, with the aim of making the participants think about and discuss the impact of social media, and possible guidelines for the users.

The panellists who would facilitate the group discussions then introduced themselves. They were Mr Michael Oghia, Independent Consultant and Researcher, Mr David Ng, eHelp Association Ms Sabrina Vorbau, Project Manager, European Schoolnet Academy, Mr Guilherme Alves da Silva, Independent Journalist and Ms Heike Tsang, NetMission.

The participants were divided into three groups. Each group was given a topic: methods of receiving information, new innovations on social media, and communication patterns. Following the discussions, the workshop facilitators presented the summaries from their respective discussions.

Vorbau noted that with the Internet, every single user is an information creator who can influence the people around them, hence, it is key for the users to foster critical thinking before they share information within their circle. Preparing users to read and identify fake news is crucial and this requires education. It was also noted that using social media is like being addicted to a drug, there needs to be caution exercised on how often and for how long users are spending time on the networks.

An unidentified speaker noted that the use and interpretation of terms of service need to be established with platforms, parents, and individuals acting with responsibility. It was also agreed that the psychological impact of social media and bullying needs to be paid more attention. It was pointed out that a lot of young people younger than age 13 have a Facebook account and it was suggested a Facebook portal be created, dedicated only to kids. The migration of young people to more private and closed platforms was identified.

While social media has great potential in bringing in groups together and creating change, the community networks formed within social media are struggling to gain relevance due to the need to invest more money to reach their target group. A member of the audience noted that even with the publicity given to ‘fake news’, people continue to share information that is in line with their biases. Tsang stressed the need to have fact checkers and verification mechanisms for social media,to help users navigate information. Wrapping up, the panel agreed that while social media is a wonderful tool for society, issues such as privacy, fake news, critical thinking, and education need to be paid attention to.

By Krishna Kumar Rajamannar