Social media, has granted us with the ability to stay connected with people and learn of breaking news as it occurs but unfortunately social media came with some unintended consequences. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms use algorithms that use our viewing history to try and deliver content tailored to our likes and needs. This works really well when it comes to marketing the needs and wants of users. However, has social media created a social divisive environment, either from us being humans in an amplified space or does the space itself have an internal design built to please us?
Cass R. Sunstein, a professor and director of Behavioral Economics and Public Policy at Harvard University found:
Further, these echo chambers he mentions may be the underlying reason we see a division among social media. The result of echo chambers is, the creation of self-segregate/like-minded groups that isolated our views and amplified our opinions. To add, The Proceeding of National Academy of Science (PNAS) conducted a study that found, users who are in these echo chambers tend to share and like content based upon specific narratives and will ignore the rest.
What does this mean? This means, users on these platforms like Facebook are only being able to see one side of story. It leaves me to ask, has social media really isolated us by entrenching our views on politics and news?
In addition to echo chambers, social proofing has also played a key role in dividing the population on social media. Social proofing is used as a sense of marketing items to you, Lisa Barone from Outspoken Media said,
“Developing a presence on the social web adds credibility to your blog/website because it allows people to see you engaging with other people. They see their social media friends talking to you and it serves as a sign that you’re trusted and not going to swindle them.”
Essentially, social proofing is psychologic phenomenon where people will be more obligated to trust someone based on their media presence much like Barone said. Facebook for example uses social proofing in widgets they have on their site. Like on a post where it shows the likes it has and if your friend liked the article it will show your friends name. By doing this user are more likely to keep reading the article and/or follow the page. Other media platforms like Twitter and Instagram etc. also do this by displaying the amounts of follows and retweets a post has.
Also, Joseph Dana, MA, independent freelance journalist, explained that:
“Social media encourages aggressive discourse. The louder one is on Twitter, for example, the more followers and attention one receives… the more dramatic the update on Facebook, the more ‘likes’ it will get.”
Dana is saying that the rhetorical conventions we use on any social media platform such as Facebook will change depending on what the audience on each platform calls for: different language/behavior. Considering, echo chambers, social proofing, and the encouragement of aggressive discourse, has social media platforms amplified our views by isolating us in like-minded groups and by discouraging deep discussion?
To conclude, the division of social media goes far deeper than one may think, it isn’t just humans being humans in a new place where opinions are amplified or the internal structure, its rather a connection between the both of them. Social media hasn’t just divided us or united us, it is doing both. I leave you with,
1. “Are You Using Social Media as Social Proof?” Social Media Examiner Main Page, 2 Oct. 2016, www.socialmediaexaminer.com/using-social-media-as-social-proof/.
2. Hampton, Keith, et al. “Social networking sites and our lives.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 15 June 2011, www.pewinternet.org/2011/06/16/social-networking-sites-and-our-lives/.
3. “Sunstein, C.R.: #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media (Hardcover and eBook) | Princeton University Press.” Princeton University, The Trustees of Princeton University, press.princeton.edu/titles/10935.html.Vicarioa, Michela Del, et al.
5. “Michela Del Vicario.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, National Acad Sciences, www.pnas.org/content/113/3/554.full.