Watching social media

Over the last week or so I have been watching social media with regard to a range of issues that are brewing as a result of budgetary constraints, which are now taking effect under the current government, both at federal (ABC funding) and state level (Tasmanian public sector job cuts which have led to stop work meetings, and seem to have a significant focus on Education, due to a student free day declared. This focus on education also saw a post on  the Premiers Facebook page removed after it received an incredible amount of traffic and comment). While living in the USA social media has provided me an avenue of remaining in contact with things that are seen as important to those I follow. It has often been the easiest way to share news updates and of course the social discourse connected to news items. I personally find social media interesting when the public build a strong voice with regard to their position on things that are occurring. Social media is an incredible space for advocacy, and possibly one that formal groups such as political parties have yet to capture and understand well due to the very nature of being formal organisations. Social media has been used as the peoples voice to identify issues across the world that need addressing and the notion of citizen journalism is significant within this concept. On a national and local level we have seen people engage in social media to support people in need. The fires that occurred in southern Tasmania in January 2013 were a prime example of that innate desire people have to rally together and do good. The Tassie Fires – We Can Help Facebook page by Mel Irons was started and still operates with a following of over 20000 people. We also saw educators around Australia band together and support with collecting needed provisions for the Dunalley Primary School, that was burnt down, through the use of Twitter and a shared Google spreadsheet.  The one thing that social media has, within the sphere of the non-formal setting, is the ability to move, to move and morph quickly as needed. To top this off it provides an interesting snap shot of those who fill the space and what is important to them. So I have a few questions. Does social media provide an insight into the temperature of the general public view and if so how can this benefit our policy makers? I also wonder, now that we are actively using social media in our lives as a form of communication, are we less likely to accept political spin? Or does it just provide greater opportunity to be ‘heard’, to have a stage, are people truly being listened to via this medium? Is social media providing the general public greater access to a political voice, and if so, what is the impact of this on politics, those in government and opposition? I think at the very least, we have seen over the last week that you cannot determine the response you may receive by posting a letter or statement via a Facebook page. Once it is out there it is open to public comment. It is more about how this is then understood and acted on.

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