Information technology has created a vast platform to share important information across the globe. Through technological advancements we have been able to use social media platforms to share stories across continents, sell items and services, spread awareness, and start social movements. I am grateful for these technological advancements, especially as a blogger and activist. Although I am appreciative for social platforms, I am getting so tired of seeing the same things all the time. Now, I find myself grappling with the fact that I need social media platforms while simultaneously resenting it.
Social Media, The Big Picture
The internet can regurgitate the same content over and over again. A share here, a like there, and boom the same image or “news” story can be seen a million times over. It can be very fortuitous for a small business, artist, and the like. Social media was used as a way to level the playing field for people and businesses looking to be seen. It seemed like anyone who shared great content could build their base of viewers. The benefits to social media advertising are still very advantageous for small businesses who are looking to target a certain community and market. It can also be used as a way for governments in several jurisdictions to openly communicate with citizens. The downside to social media marketing arises when groups use it as a platform to disseminate false information to people of different demographics. The most notable examples arose during the 2016 Presidential Election when Russia used Facebook to influence the election by distributing false stories about Democrats, social justice groups, and the Clinton Campaign. These ads were seen by millions of people in the United States; not only did these ads influence the perception of the presidential candidates, they also pettled fake news stories. There were Congressional Hearings on the role that social media platforms played in influencing the 2016 Presidential election, by allowing foreign agents to essentially buy the election. Facebook has already handed over 3,000 ads bought by Russian media agents, which cost over 100 thousand dollars to promote. Despite their cooperation, social media platforms must employ strategies to sift through stories and advertisements that are fake. They have a responsibility to their users to promote truth. It is easy to discuss shutting down foreign agents, as it can be a matter of national security. What about the fictitious stories that make headway simply by being shared by the same like-minded people? In the United States, the First Amendment protects an individual’s freedom of speech. Which is why Twitter says it has not shut down Donald Trump’s account. However, I still believe that fake stories should not be protected by the First Amendment. Defamation of character and libel are interpreted in different ways by each state, making it difficult to define what is a lie and not true. Furthermore, there are less protections for people in the public eye, as their position comes with that territory. Still, I believe that harboring such ideals on social media platforms can do more bad than good.
Anyone who is on social media can see several different stories being disguised as “real news” but have no merit whatsoever. I do understand that social media websites are not categorized as news outlets, thus not required to retract fake information. Yet, I would argue that social media outlets have an ethical responsibility to monitor and remove fake stories that will hinder our democracy. Whether they like it or not, websites like Twitter and Facebook have become primary news sources for a large segment of our population and it is their civic and corporate duty to act responsibly in this matter. It wouldn’t be difficult to add a specific clause in their user agreement that authorizes the removal of fake news and the account the content originated from. We can see some of the fake news stories of 2017 here and how they play into the fears and ideals of group mentality. It will take time and resources from these social media outlets, but they must act to prevent the dissemination of fake news and lies.
They must, President Trump and Fox News already have a claim on fake news.
The Personal Side of Social Media: The Do’s and Don’ts
The idea to write a piece on social media stemmed from fact that I was getting incredibly frustrated with seeing the same people and bloggers dominate my feed.. Moreover, it was getting so annoying. If you are the type of person to post several pictures a day on your social media accounts, then you’re probably thinking that I should stop complaining and delete my account or unfollow people. Sure, with Facebook I can hide people without hurting their feelings. I love my friends and family, but I do not need to see their whole day mapped out on a single post. Nor do I care to see my conservative relatives (and their friends) post fake news stories on Facebook. An exception to the overshare being Snapchat and Instagram stories, because they disappear after 24 hours. The real problem is in Instagram, as they do not have a “hide profile” button yet (could you get on that). How could I unfollow acquaintances without insulting them? Plus, I feel like I have been morphing into a sociologist. I am constantly asking questions like: why would this person feel the need to post 6 back to back stories or photos of their wedding, every week since they got married? Okay we get it, you’re in love… we know this because you posted about it 500 times in the last month. Before you go thinking about me being a bitter spinster (because that would be the only reason someone would be annoyed by this right), I am not. I am in a very happy and loving relationship, yes I have posted pictures of us, but not 500. This issue for me, is the sheer obnoxiousness of it all. Why do feel the need to overshare your life? By all means share, it is great to keep your followers abreast of your life moments, but they do need to see all of it! In addition, people could feel free to stop posting 100 pictures of their children, keep some things private. We understand that you’re proud parents, but making every post about your children is just irritating. What did you post about before you became a parent? Let me guess, was it about your relationship? Also, teachers and caregivers of minors should really know that they should not post a picture of a minor that is not related to them. Do not post photos of your students, it is very illegal unless parents have signed a photo consent waiver for your personal social media use. Have they? No, because that would be ridiculous. I would like to think of this section of my post as a public service announcement and less like a rant (so just go with it). I think that most bloggers have embraced the social media etiquette and unofficial posting rules. This goes for the regular user, if you post less then people will actually enjoy your photos. Wouldn’t you want people to enjoy your posts, instead of rolling their eyes? I assume you care what people think because you post several times a day on one social media platform. Again, the sociologist is taking over, do you have something to prove when you post all the time about one type of subject? Of course food and animals are excluded, because everyone loves them.
Social media is a great tool for quickly and creatively sharing information with friends, family, and the public. For all the many positive uses for social media, there are certainly downfalls. International government agents can hijack sites in order to disseminate fake information, hoping for a specific outcome. The same could be said about organizations and individuals who share salacious and false stories, for a certain group’s political gain. Even when those certain people on your social feeds obnoxiously post about the same things over and over again, it devalues your experience with social media. Furthermore, they all leave a mark on the fabric of our democracy (yes Sandra, the 15 pictures you posted about your children yesterday is affecting our democracy).