Social media and the rise of alternate media By Qasim Farooq



The 21st century has been dubbed by many as the information age, wherein the rise of social media has fundamentally transformed the way information is shared and consumed. Social media platforms have created a decentralized information sharing system that has empowered individuals and communities to share news and information on their own terms, without relying on traditional media outlets.

Social media platforms provide a space for individuals and organizations to share information and news stories that may not be covered by mainstream media, thereby generating alternative news sources that operate outside of traditional media outlets. This has created a more democratic media landscape, where the power to shape public opinion is no longer concentrated in the hands of a few media conglomerates. Moreover, social media has enabled people to bypass traditional media outlets and directly access information from a wide range of sources. This has led to a proliferation of diverse news sources and viewpoints. This is especially true for the media landscape in Pakistan.

Social media has become a popular source of news and information in Pakistan. With the widespread availability of smartphones and affordable internet packages, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are increasingly being used as a means of consuming news. One of the main drivers of this shift is social media’s ability to provide real-time updates and coverage of events. Moreover, with traditional media often subject to censorship or government control, social media provides a means of bypassing these barriers and accessing unfiltered information.

In addition to this, social media has also been pivotal in transforming thejournalism landscape in Pakistan. It has enabled journalists to connect with sources and experts from around the world, providing a means of accessing diverse perspectives. This has been particularly important for investigative journalism, where traditional media outlets may face censorship or intimidation from various actors. YouTube, especially, has become an important platform for journalism in Pakistan, providing space for independent journalists and citizen journalists to share their stories and perspectives.

Unlike traditional media outlets, which are often constrained by time and space limitations, YouTube provides a platform for journalists to delve into complex issues and provide in-depth analysis and commentary. Youtube video logs (VLOGS) have become a popular means of generating and consuming information on hot topics. Many journalists, over the years have shifted to this platform, making their own youtube channels – some of which have gained more public traction than large media outlets.However, the rise of parallel media has also led to concerns about the spread of misinformation and fake news, especially in a country like Pakistan where illiteracy rates are high and critical thinking skills are not well developed.

Some parallel media sources may lack the fact-checking and editorial processes that traditional media outlets employ, leading to a larger probability of dissemination of false or misleading information. Additionally, social media algorithms can create echo chambers and filter bubbles, where users are only exposed to information that confirms their existing biases. This can exacerbate existing divisions and conflicts, within different groups who might be exposed to conflicting one-sided news. In conclusion, while social media has emerged as a valuable source of information, it is important that consumers are aware of the risks of echo chambers and filter bubbles, and actively fact-check information before accepting it as true. It is also the responsibility of social media journalists to be vigilant in verifying their sources and fact-checking information before disseminating it. With these checks in place, social media can serve as a powerful tool for not just providing diverse perspectives but also democratizing the media landscape.

This article is written by Qasim Farooq, a LUMS graduate, Civil Servant serving as Information Officer, PID Karachi