Politics, and other arenas, will never be the same after SNS

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Politics, and other arenas, will never be the same after SNS

During the Seoul mayoral by-election last month, social networking services played a vital role.

That was reminiscent of the 2002 presidential election, when young voters rushed to the polls after reading posts on the Internet saying that Roh Moo-hyun needed support. Those last-minute votes helped him win the presidency.

But analysts say that the impact of SNS, used through smartphones, is far wider and more profound. The reliance of young voters on SNS to rally like-minded voters led the mayoral by-election to be dubbed the “battle of SNS.”

The growing influence of SNS was felt in the recent controversy over the free trade agreement between Korea and the United States.

Korea’s prosecutors’ office announced it will investigate negative rumors spread about the impact of the FTA on SNS after the U.S. Congress ratified the agreement.

However, the prosecutors’ office was criticized for trying to suppress freedom of speech.

As seen in the mayoral by-election and the free trade agreement cases, the smartphone is now more than the mobile phone of old, and its power and influence is stretching into every corner of society, including politics and economics.

Although the device was only introduced to Korea two years ago, it is now one of the biggest communication tools in terms of political influence.

Analysts say unlike previous mobile devices, which allowed two people to communicate, smartphones have the power to communicate with a nearly unlimited number of people at one time.

This has redefined the idea of a communication device.

“Unlike previous media, like personal computers and television, the biggest value of a smartphone comes with the freedom of space and time,” said Hwang Joo-seong, a professor at Korea Information Society Development Institute, during a recent forum on the smartphone phenomenon.

“Not only with smartphones but also with the expansion of tablet PCs, a multiplatform era has opened up.”

Chung Tai-myoung, professor of information and communication at Sungkyunkwan University, said at the same forum the biggest change that smartphones ushered in was that they gave every member of society the freedom to freely communicate and, as a result, more varied voices are now being openly expressed.

Others looked at the smartphone phenomenon from a more personal angle and view the device as more than an avatar that helps people express their views and opinions in a new way.

“The smartphone is another me and my window to the world,” said Kim Young-se, recognized designer and avid tweetter.

However, analysts warn there’s a negative side to the wide distribution of smartphones and individuals’ increasing reliance on SNS.

They say as people spend excessive amounts of time connected to networks and communicating, their powers of concentration and innovative thought could suffer.

By Lee Ho-jeong [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]

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