By Fulin Wang
According to the data from “We Are Social”, more than 4.5 billion people now use the internet, while social media users have passed the 3.8 billion mark. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population is already online, and the latest trends suggest that more than half of the world’s total population will use social media in 2020 (Wang). As the frequency of international exchanges increases, global informatization has become the mainstream of the times. In this context, social media is increasingly playing its indispensable role. It has few impacts on different areas and brings both advantages and disadvantages to the world.
First, the network culture which accompanies with social media, to some extent, blurs the differences of class and nationality, and then makes the national consciousness of citizens tend to fade away. ISIS, a terrorist militant group, is known for killing dozens of people and carrying out public executions, crucifixions and other acts (“ISIS Fast Facts”). If it were not for the tangible support that Facebook, Google and twitter provided, ISIS would not have expanded so rapidly in the past few years. Not only they recruit children to fight wars all over the world, but also promote reactionary politics and religious fundamentalism. ISIS played down the restrictions imposed on people by national borders and nationalities, leading to the influx of minors around the world to join it.
Second, social media provides an important channel and platform for the public to express political demands and influence government decisions. The earliest activity to reshape the political agenda through the interactive function of social media took place on January 17, 2001. During the impeachment trial of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, thousands of Filipinos were angry about the corrupt president. By forwarding text messages: “Go 2 EDSA. Wear blk,” the crowd quickly swelled, and in the next few days, over a million people arrived in Manila (Shirky 28). The rally continued until January 20 when President Estrada resigned. Simmons concludes that “Information and communication technologies have empowered private citizens to challenge official monopolies on ‘the truth,’ even as they allow governments to reach out in new ways to broader audiences than ever before.” It can be seen that, driven by social media, personal information creations have aggregated unprecedentedly powerful “micropower”, freed from the relatively high cost of public participation in current transactions, and can quickly and easily have the power of information dissemination, the appeal of activities, and the power of political operations, the political agendas of various countries are being rewritten by the power of social media.
Third, due to the strong penetration and communication power of social media in the country and other countries, it is easy to become a kind of diplomatic force. Countries, especially major countries, have launched diplomatic innovations and used social media to carry out a new round of diplomatic work. In recent years, social media accounts have been set by foreign ministries. According to official data, Barack Obama used the White House’s Twitter account for his presidential activities. He also follows 611,054 accounts, and has posted 15,685 tweets.
For now, under the spread of COVID-19, social media still plays an important role in global scale. According to WHO’s data, until 28 April 2020, there are 2995,758 confirmed cases, 213 countries, areas or territories with cases, and 204,987 confirmed deaths, COVID-19 has already become the virus that needs to fight together. However, because of the powerful communication capabilities of social media, it “has bred a multitude of falsehoods even as truth has increasingly become a matter of life-and-death” (Pennycook 1). As social media blurs boarders of different countries, all kinds of news can be more easily spread around the world. But usually people share false claims because they fail to think sufficiently about the accuracy of contents when deciding to share (Pennycook 1). Second, social media becomes the platform that people can express themselves freely, inevitably there will be different ideas and quarrels, which leads to more chaotic international relations. For instance, the media war between China and the United States. President Donald Trump used to call COVID-19 as “China virus” or the “Chinese virus” after Chinese media accused American soldiers of spreading the virus. According to the report of CNN, Trump stopped using the word “China virus” after Asian-Americans have become the target of a growing number of racist and xenophobic attacks related to the virus (Vazquez).
In conclusion, the appearance of social media has revolutionized the way the world communicates, while also adding more complexity to international relations. On the one hand, social media blurs the boundaries of countries that lead to the increasement of globalization. On the other hand, social media not only provides a broader platform for people to express themselves and get connected to the world, but also gives new development ideas for the diplomacy of countries. Social media has become a part of people ’s lives, which means that future life will depend in part on the development of social media. Thus, with the appropriate use of social media, it could provide a new perspective of the development of international relations.
Fulin Wang is a first year student at George Washington University. She is an international student from China and her potential major is Business Analytics.
“ISIS Fast Facts.” CNN, Cable News Network, 5 Dec. 2019, www.cnn.com/2014/08/08/world/isis-fast-facts/index.html.
Pennycook, Gordon, et al. "Fighting COVID-19 misinformation on social media: Experimental evidence for a scalable accuracy nudge intervention." (2020).
Shirky, Clay. "The political power of social media: Technology, the public sphere, and political change." Foreign affairs (2011): 28-41.
Simmons, Beth A. "Preface: International relationships in the information age." International Studies Review 15.1 (2013): 1-4.
Vazquez, Maegan. “Trump Says He's Pulling Back from Calling Novel Coronavirus the 'China Virus'.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Mar. 2020, www.cnn.com/2020/03/24/politics/donald-trump-pull-back-coronavirus-chinese-virus/index.html
Wang, Kate, et al. “Digital 2020: 3.8 Billion People Use Social Media.” We Are Social, 4 Feb. 2020, wearesocial.com/blog/2020/01/digital-2020-3-8-billion-people-use-social-media.