By Catherine Crump
Social media platforms today wear many hats. They are used to communicate with family and friends, provide customer service, advertise, and inform. They are used to search for a job or search for someone to do a job. They are also utilized as a source of news and a meeting place for political discussion. The many uses and meteoric rise of use have caused a few somewhat scary issues to come to light.
Social media has been lauded with bringing people together, regardless of geographical boundaries and opening the world up to millions of users. This is a great thing at face value, but looking deeper at how connected we are with our tribes online vs how disconnected we are with those that aren’t our tribes exhibit an environment that geographical boundaries didn’t present.
There are always unintended consequences and issues that arise with new mediums and new methods of news gathering, but the most onerous of these for social media is the bias that we are receiving from news gathered without realizing it. For instance, if you are on Facebook you might not realize that the news displayed in your news stream has been tailored to your known political leanings. When doing a google search, you might not realize that the search results are also tailored to your previous searches and will return a list of articles biased by your most common searches.
This has not been done with malicious intent. It makes sense that platforms would cater to their users, but the consequences of such behavior in regards to political discussion or news gathering are becoming more apparent. If you are only receiving news from those that think like you, are you really getting an accurate account? The mob mentality of political tribes online has been shown to create more division between the parties (and people in general) than in person disagreements and conflicts ever have.
There are some things you can do to get an unbiased search result or view more than one perspective on your Facebook feed. You can look up opposing views and actually read them at least once a week. You can search Google from an incognito browser. There will hopefully be more solutions to these issues in the future. It would be beneficial to all users to interact with those who do not hold the same beliefs in order to gather a more complete view of the world. Modern social media is a great place to do this, now that the need for doing such has been made apparent.
Picture Credit: Wall Street Journal
Blue Feed, Red Feed (InfoGraphic) (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2017 from http://graphics.wsj.com/blue-feed-red-feed/
How Does Social Media Shape Our Political Views (Article) (2016). Retrieved March 24, 2017 from https://ww2.kqed.org/learning/2016/10/21/how-does-social-media-shape-our-political-views/
How Social Media Creates Angry, Poorly Informed Partisans (Article) (2016). Retrieved March 23, 2017 from http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/26/13413292/social-media-disrupting-politics
The Reason Why Politics Feels so Tribal in 2016 (Article) (2016). Retrieved March 22, 2017 from http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160823-how-modern-life-is-destroying-democracy