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The Devil in Disguise

This post represents a personal response to the topic “The risks of and ingenuity in social media”.

We have already become aware by now that we live in an age of spotless social media attendance. All of us who have access to at least one of the social media enter almost compulsively every day. But are we really aware of all the consequences that this seemingly harmless habit leaves on us?

At the very beginning, some of the useful social media aspects should be listed, which actually may be the reasons why we always come back to them.
It is inevitable to mention the unfortunate set of circumstances that brought even more popularity to social media this year, the pandemic. Social media is used as a means of communication among people in a critical period when social contact is not desirable, which is a great benefit, as it is mentioned in the post (http://interculturaplextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=59) . As further discussed in this post, the possibility to communicate with our loved ones, who we can’t visit due to quarantine and numerous other restrictions, is one of the things which helps us get through this period (a comment by ml). In such tempting times I can only imagine how much harder it would be without that possibility.
In addition to communicating with people we know, one should not neglect another option provided by social media, gaining new friendships. At a time when physical contact is practically forbidden it is still not impossible to meet someone new. I would have to agree with the opinion of colleagues who have expressed a positive attitude towards online friendships, especially now (http://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=56). The lack of face-to-face communication has made us all feel a bit lonely and making online friendships may be a reasonable solution.
Finally, another possibility provided by social media is the feeling of closeness to our favorite celebrities. This phenomenon is explained by the term parasocial interaction (http://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=57) . Although we could learn a lot about celebrities through other media we can now know a lot more details that make famous people more approachable and we can even identify with them. If we have hitherto considered celebrities unreachable and distant who are nothing like “ordinary people”, social media has changed that. At the time of the pandemic, it helped us understand that celebrities are also struggling with the same mental and physical problems as we are and that they are not untouchable either.

Although the positive aspects of social media are not in the least negligible, many would agree that the negative ones begin to prevail over time.
One of the negative consequences of staying in touch and making new contacts through social media is context collapse (http://www.roughtype.com/?p=8724) . As we communicate with all layers of our social life through one and the same social media account, it is impossible to draw a clear distinction between, say, a business and a friendly relationship on social media. Different “audiences”, for example both your mother and your colleague can see the same post. This leads to us pretending to be another person on social media in order to suit all our “audiences”. My group raised this issue in our post (http://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=8) saying that we strive to please everyone on social media and then we do or say something we would not otherwise do, we follow trends and thus lose track of our personality. Needless to say, this can leave some mental health consequences.
In addition to the consequences on that person’s mental health, pretending to be someone else can directly affect other people. As we mentioned in said post, people often appear bolder than they are because they hide behind a keyboard. Not realizing that the typed words have the same weight as the spoken ones they dare to make comments that they otherwise would not say to someone in person. Cyberbullying or hate comments have a major negative impact on mental health. As mentioned in one of the posts (http://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=25) we have become almost immune to negative comments, so much that we no longer realize how much damage they can do. Depression and other mental health problems caused by bullying on social media have become a real and unfortunately frequent problem nowadays. I think it is high time people understood that behind profiles on social media are real people with real feelings.
Those who realized in time that social media profiles have feelings are those who are engaged in posting (mis)information on social media. As vast amount of information passes through one medium, social media, the boundaries between news, entertainment, personal opinions and attitudes and so on are easily erased. This phenomenon is somewhere defined as content collapse (http://www.roughtype.com/?p=8724) . Since content collapse leads to equalizing the importance of all information, people resort to various strategies in order to highlight their posts and news and attract the attention of readers. One of the tactics they use is to write click-bait or sensationalist titles that will trigger an emotional reaction from readers. Readers are easily subject to manipulation because of the presence of the three types of biases described in the article (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/biases-make-people-vulnerable-to-misinformation-spread-by-social-media) . People react to a post or an article either because of the emotions that a click-bait title evokes in them, or because of the influence of the society they follow through social media or because of the algorithms imposed on them, sometimes without even thinking about the accuracy of the information below the title. It is superfluous to talk about the dangers of emotional manipulation for mental well-being.

To sum it all up, I was personally oblivious to some of the issues happening on social media until we shed some light on them during this course. I think that collectively as a society we should reconsider our presence, participation and contribution on social networks and the Internet in general. If used properly it can be more of a blessing than a curse.

A.D.

This post may be used for research purposes.

I hereby confirm that this work is solely the result of my own independent scholarly work and that if any ideas, text passages, or diagrams from books, papers, the Web or other sources have been copied, paraphrased, or in any other way used, all references – including those found in electronic media – have been clearly acknowledged and fully cited.

References:

1. Plusone, Should we delete our social account/s? (2020, December 13). InterculturalExtraneity.com Should we delete our social account/s? 2. Miths, Online friendships (2020, December 2). InterculturalExtraneity.com Online friendships 3. Maverick, Parasocial relationships (2020, December 8). InterculturalExtraneity.com Parasocial relationships 4. Nicholas Carr, From context collapse to content collapse (2020, January 13). From context collapse to content collapse 5. Airsignsag, Do your social media accounts represent who you really are? (2020, October 21). InterculturalExtraneity.com Do your social media accounts represent who you really are? 6. Djaks, Social media and mental health (2020, November 23). InterculturalExtraneity.com Social media and mental health 7. Ciampaglia G.L, Menczer F, Biases Make People Vulnerable to Misinformation Spread by Social Media (2018, June 21). The Conversation US Biases Make People Vulnerable to Misinformation Spread by Social Media

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