By Adlene Aris & Maria Valantine Rao Subaramaniyam
Social media has served innumerable purposes to its users since its debut into the World Wide Web. It has been used for business, educational, and entertainment, as well as other impetus. Since social media platforms are accessible to all and interactive in nature, it is the idyllic means of communication and educational tool for countless vocations. Educational purposes in this matter are not limited only to the teaching profession, but also for others like lawyers, business gurus, religious figures, and doctors per say.
Recently, Facebook was ablaze with the case of a local medical practitioner who was sued for defaming a doula on the social media platform. The plaintiff took action when the defendant accused her of being responsible for the death of an infant who allegedly died during a failed home-birth attempt. The dispute had been going on for a few years between both parties and it happened mainly on the famed social media platform - Facebook. Not only that, the doctor has also been using it to educate netizens on public health, primarily advocating safe-birth. The court later found the defendant guilty of the slander.
Self-proclaimed social media influencers
In today’s virtual world, numerous anonymous science-related Facebook pages can be found widely and they are administered by experienced medical practitioners themselves. Many qualified medical professionals who are also social media influencers have been working arduously in their effort to divulge quack doctors and unreliable individuals who claim to be medical experts on social media. Their key mission is to unveil these irresponsible perpetrators and also to educate netizens on public health in general.
These physicians and other healthcare professionals such as nurses are actively advocating the prominence of public health, and the public’s rights to better health services – always putting patients’ safety and well-being first. Since the pandemic, this group of medical experts has been operating even more vigilantly due to the sudden surge of anti-masks and ‘plandemic’ theorists who are not by coincidence, but individuals from anti-vaccination groups.
However, as much as these medical professionals have the right to educate netizens on public health, anti-vaccination individuals also enjoy the freedom of expression and the right to educate. The term ‘social media influencer’ is now commonly and slackly used to define just about anyone who is famous on social media regardless of the impact of their views and opinions they might have on the public. The term has mislaid its value and is no longer associated with credible and erudite individuals who support good causes. Today, every ragtag and bobtail can be a social media influencer, and these self-proclaimed figures are the ones who are tarnishing the social media and content industry.
Social media influencers and media literacy
Communication and media is a field of study that many out there often taken frivolously. It is common to hear one say that it is an area of study that need not to be learned formally like other professions. Little do they know that most crises happening today are due to lack of communication and misuse of media, or even absence of adequate knowledge in using it.
Media literacy is significant to both content creators and also media consumers. Labelling oneself as a social media influencer or connoisseur without anticipating the responsibilities that come with it is unwise. Meanwhile, cherry-picking good content and following credible social media influencers stand as the responsibilities of accountable netizens.
Educated and well-informed social media influencers will and are obliged to present and educate the public with facts, instead of sugar-coating the materials to please certain cybercitizens on the Internet. Responsible social media influencers must abide by ethical guidelines and be tactful when conveying information to netizens so that it does not lead to falsity and other legal consequences. As a social media influencer, communicating on social media can be jeopardising as the content and tone of messages can be misinterpreted by unenlightened netizens.
Our take on this? As netizens, let’s just leave it to the experts!
Adlene Aris is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Applied Communication, Multimedia University in Cyberjaya.
Maria Valantine Rao Subaramaniyam is a Foundation Lecturer at the Faculty of Applied Communication, Multimedia University in Cyberjaya.