Social Media and “New Media” development in Georgia

The importance of New Media has been discussed in Georgia during last few years. The advantage of new media is mainly in its democratic essence – users are the part of it as they participate in creating media product by themselves. According to experts, new media is still under development in Georgia and has less readers than traditional one, however, time by time it is becoming an alternative source of information.

According to the Information and Technologic Unit (ITU), in 2010 there were 1.3 million internet users in Georgia (28.3 % of whole population). Around 789 thousand people are using mobile internet. It should be noted that the number of internet users are rising every year. 

According to the Caucasus Research Resource Center’s media survey 2011, the main sources of information for receiving news about current events in Georgia for 88 % person is television, 5 % – internet, 2% – newspaper and magazines, 2% – neighbors and friends, 1% – family members and 1 % – colleagues.

“Social media cannot play an important role yet, because the access to social networks in the districts of Georgia is very low and the main users are from Tbilisi. The number of internet users have not reached the high level yet,”-explained Lasha Kvantaliani, the blogger.

One of the bloggers of Radio Liberty, Niko Nergadze told us that social media is gradually finding its place in Georgia: “Social media is slowly getting the function of main source of alternative information. In such an environment, where there is no reliable media, the information provided by social media could sometimes be more consistent”.

“For me, the main source of information, is Google notifications and Tweeter. To say in brief, it’s a networking and automated search in the “real time”, – noted Shota Khinchagashvili, the blogger.

Shota Khinchagashvili, the Blogger talks about the advantages of social media: “Comparing to traditional media, social one is very interactive. It is hard to control it; the information is spread rapidly, it connects people with the same interest, etc.”.

Facebook is the most popular social network in Georgia. Currently, there are 686 160 Facebook users in the Georgia, which makes it №85 in the ranking of all Facebook statistics by country. The amount of Georgian facebook users are significantly high than users from the neighboring countries like Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Internet is the main source of information for Davit Zurabishvili, the member of Republican Party: “I registered on Facebook in 2009 and now I have around 5 thousand friends. Most of them I still don’t know but some of them became my real friends”, – said Zurabishvili. For him, facebook is the best place for sharing opinion and having discussions.

“Nowadays Social media is more “social” than “media”; it is mostly used for communication purposes with friends, although it has an important role of spreading news and having discussions around ongoing issues. So far, social media covers the information provided by the traditional media. It is very rare that any blog or facebook user becomes the source of information but sometimes it happens as well”, – said Niko Nergadze, the blogger of radio liberty.

Nino Bekauri the Independent bloggers explains to the HRHT, that in 2008 when she created the blog she mostly considered it as her own internet dairy: “Time by time, when I realized that readers were looking for my new posts. I learned that the blog was giving me more opportunities and my posts had (at least very small) impact. Blog is the best tool for those who want to say something. My blog helps me to think critically and be objective”, – stated Nino Bekauri, who writes mostly on social and media critics.

In addition to individuals, it’s noteworthy that organizations have started to use social media as well.

“For “Article 42 of the constitution of Georgia” it is strategic to cooperate with media outlets as well as promoting the independent media. We cooperate with traditional media as well as with social media. With this purpose we have created a blog which unites lawyers working on human right issues, independent authors and journalists. The blog gives them an opportunity to express their opinions and divulge concrete cases”, – said Alexsi Kedelashvili, the PR of organization“

The “Institute for War and Peace Reporting” is actively working on new media; their office in Tbilisi had 2 successful projects towards this direction. One was blog on news, which helped thousands of people to learn about ongoing situation of the different districts of Georgia during the war 2008. And the second one was created in 2010 specially for the election – www.geoelection.ge. This project turned out to be very successful, so we are going to update it in the nearest future and keep it active”,- said Giorgi Kupatadze, the editor of IWPR.

According to Lasha Kvantaliani, despite the fact that there were several attempts, the social media had no significant impact over the political and social issues in Georgia: “I cannot remember that social media made any global changes in Georgia. There were several attempts to organize different kind of protest action through social network, but they have never reached the serious scopes”.

Shota Khinchagashvili thinks that the new media somehow changed part of Georgian society, because it made people communicate with strangers and discuss different issues with them. “However, if we analyze facebook users, we will note that they start networking with her/his friends, which somehow limits the identification of the interested groups. I think that Tbilisi Forum was the only substitute for open and free political discussion but this potential was not used adequately and this platform did not mange to meet neither internal (self-governing, rebranding), nor the external (for example the war in 2008 and blocking of forum) challenges.

Shorena Latatia

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