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Uncovering Social Media

This post is an individual reflection on the risks of and ingenuity of social media.

Social media has become the agora of modern time – but not only for selling products, but also ideas, opinions, fake news, personalities…even our own privacies. It has replaced television and all credible printed news sources. Journalist code of ethics has been buried under the overload of sensational headlines, clickbait, likes, and shares. It empowered us to falsely believe that individuals’ opinions can transform the world, enlighten those of the opposite opinion, and thus, our social media profiles are “classrooms” for others to learn how to dress, eat, think, vote, live. However, little do we know that by sharing our deepest thoughts and most intimate moments, we are making confessions to a devil, who doesn’t keep secrets and offers no forgiveness, for our posts from the dim and distant past may haunt us forever. As lumpenprol highlights in this forum post: “an individual’s online footprint stretches out along all temporal lines”.

The initially innocent idea of a virtual community that erases the miles between people and allows them to (re)connect has been lost and forgotten. All that’s been left is a turbid pool of unfiltered information, ads, and mean comments.

By using social media we run the risk of developing biases. In the article three types of bias are explained – in the brain, in society, and in the machine. Due to the abundance of information that is impossible to process, our brain reacts to only emotionally charged content. This can be dangerous as we are more likely to fall into the trap of lurid headlines written by unreliable sources and end up being misinformed. The Tech Giants go so far as to track us through the people we socialize with. For example, they don’t even need every individual to share their views on politics, since they can “determine the political leanings of a Twitter user by simply looking at the partisan preferences of their friends” (Ciampaglia, G. L. & Menczer, F. 2018). The final bias described stems from something that most of us are aware of – algorithms. Our feeds are flooded with ads for products our devices think we need based on our search history and online activity. It is so important to become aware of these things because otherwise, we let someone else control our thoughts and actions.

The line between a real fact and speculation is so thin, if even existent. All that’s been left from once-upon-a-time reliable media sources are their names. As Vanderleun points out in his article even reputable media such as The New York Times more and more uses speculative phrases such as “is likely to”, “will almost certainly” etc. He explains that such news is nothing but a waste of time since it doesn’t report on anything that actually has happened. However, this should not come as a surprise, since the media has to make a profit and keep up with the competition.

The greatest problem of social media is that it is always steps ahead of any individual. Because it knows how much we know about its surveillance mechanisms, it constantly uses ingenuity to find new ways of evolving. In her article No Way Out Elizabeth Skolnick quotes Shoshana Zuboff: “We thought that we search Google, but now we understand that Google searches us. We assumed that we use social media to connect, but we learned that connection is how social media uses us” (Skolnick, 2020). What I would add to this quote is that, besides all this, social media disconnects us from reality and critical thinking.

However, not everything is so dark about social media. As powerpuff2 cleverly reminds in the forum post that it would be pointless to live in a constant state of fear every time we use the Internet. After all, no matter how much we condemn it, social media is part of the lives of the greater majority. Let’s not forget that on social media platforms so many have found their voices, friends and significant others, drawn inspiration, regained motivation, showcased their creativity and hobbies, and even made businesses out of it. At the end of the day, it’s up to us what we make out of the things we have. To quote Elizabeth Skolnick: “One person’s shiny new object is another’s Pandora’s box” (Skolnick, 2020).

The fact is that Frankenstein’s monster has been created and it is out outwitting even its creators. However, even though we cannot hide from it, we can restrict it. The first step is becoming aware of how much time we spend online and limit it. As djaks brilliantly intimated in this forum post “The worst addiction is the one that lurks in the dark. To fight it we must be aware of it first”. Furthermore, we should never stop learning and educating ourselves. We may never again retrieve the gamepad over our virtual lives from the hands of the Big Tech, but we should never cease to keep up with its ingenuity. Finally, before adopting it, everything we read on social media needs to go through the fact-checker of our own minds.

M. B.

This post, as well as any other of my posts on this site, 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:

• [lumpenprol]. (2020, November 3). Privacy is a curious thing. [Online forum post]. Intercultural Extraneity Forum. https://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=86#p86
• Ciampaglia, G. L. & Menczer, F. (2018) Biases make people vulnerable to misinformation spread by social media Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/biases-make-people-vulnerable-to-misinformation-spread-by-social-media/
• Crichton, M. (2005). Why speculate. American Digest. https://americandigest.org/long-read-week-speculate-michael-crichton/
• Skolnick, E. (2020). No way out. Culture Crush. https://www.theculturecrush.com/feature/no-way-out
• [powerpuff2]. (2020, November 3). To be frank, our group believes that people are aware of all of these privacy issues on the Internet to some degree, they just choose to turn a blind eye to the facts. [Online forum post]. Intercultural Extraneity Forum. https://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=97#p97
• [djaks]. (2020, December 1). We also think that if not the majority, then many suffer from technology addiction. [Online forum post]. Intercultural Extraneity Forum. https://interculturalextraneity.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=188#p188

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