Social media has become the source of misinformation and a fusion of news and information. Misinformation impacts public perception, thus damaging societies and democratic institutions. Our community has divided into opinions due to a higher magnitude of misinformation pounding into the brains of populous through social media. Spreading of fake news has created confusion and dissent among people; thus, it has become a pressing issue to channel out false information. According to the latest Pew Research, people show a universal distrust in social media for the news sources.
Social Media Shapes Political Landscape:
Social media has played a predominant role in shaping the political landscape of U.S. presidential elections. People are more connected to information flow on social media than T.V., Newspapers, and magazines. It’s almost impossible to understand it’s full impacts on peoples’ lives. Social Media enables people to create greater interactions and ease of sharing, comment, and post their opinions regarding electoral candidates. The data arising from the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, it has become quite critical to understand how people vote. Misinformation through social media has increased the gap in our political and ideological views. More and more people are showing distrust on social media.
Pew Research Shows Universal Distrust on Social Media:
A new study from Pew Research has shown interesting insights regarding social media and its impacts on U.S. Presidential Elections.
“The current analysis, based on a survey of 12,043 U.S. adults, finds that […] both Democrats and Republicans (including independents who lean toward either party) – in an unusual display of bipartisan convergence – register far more distrust than trust of social media sites as sources for political and election news. And the most distrusted are three giants of the social media landscape – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.”
Social media has become a vital source for information dispensation, as stated in another study conducted by Pew in 2018. According to the research, 68% of Americans interact with news through social media. It is interesting to know that 43 % of people are getting such news from Facebook.
Facebook Leads as News Source & Creating Distrust in Social Media:
Facebook has got lead among all other social media despite its decreasing popularity among people. It has become the source of most distrusted news.
There is a lot of junk information floating in the Facebook network that destroys the credibility of elections. Media has spread a lot of details of external influence on U.S. Election, such as Russian interference. Nowadays, people have a greater sense of false information and its impact. But not all people deeply understand the political systems and sensitivities.
Also, there is a bulk of information flow through social media; the right political knowledge likely buries deeper. When news breaks on social media, people rather than showing distrust they develop opinions immediately.
Another critical factor in the Pew Study is that people from both sides distrust social media regarding news content. It seems very conflicting that people are accepting news even when they show universal distrust on social media.
People are falling victims to fake news unconsciously, and before they realize, information already creates an impact.
Eco-Chamber Effect and Political Engagements:There is no doubt about how social media has divided us into our common ideologies. The engagement algorithm plays a significant part in showing you content for which you have shown a minor consent. It is very active in detecting what you like, comment, or share. So, the next time, you will be receiving the same information and content based on your platform’s activity. Because this is important to keep you engaged, and it may further solidify your perspective. As a result, you are more inclined to one political side. We define it as the Eco-Chamber effect.
What if there is no Eco-Chamber effect! Let’s think of it another way. Studies showed people are generally distrusting what comes in their news feed. So, algorithms may be showing more content you will disagree with. To enhance your engagements, you are getting conflicting news. So, users will get into arguments with opposite thoughts and keep on commenting and sharing the story. On the practical side, it’s maybe an algorithm to keep users engaged and don’t intend to create social media distrust.
In response to criticism on Eco-Chamber, Facebook stated that its users get a wide range of information than non-users. Facebook reported that 26 % of the stories in News Feed represent “another point of view,” according to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg.
Facebook exec Andrew Bosworth stated:
“The focus on filter bubbles causes people to miss the real disaster, which is polarization. What happens when you see 26% more content from people you don’t agree with? Does it help you empathize with them as everyone has been suggesting? Nope. It makes you dislike them even more.”
It also seems a valid point that disagreement creates more engagement on posts. If you unlike or distrust a post, then it is very likely that you engage with it. On the opposite side, you may not engage with likable posts which results in further polarization of society.
Social Media Is Damaging the Norms of Politics:
Due to all distrusting and fake news, social media has become a hate machine where partisan news wins out. While moderate journalism and truth quickly slipped through eyes.
Politicians are using it for the spread of their agenda and often spread false news for opposite candidates. So, they don’t believe in “fake news” because it might be helping them in some ways. On the other hand, Media cells are also doing divisive coverage to boost traffic. So, it’s not just social media where we get distrusting news.
Universal Distrust on Social Media: Is it for Business!
If only engagement is a purpose to attract advertisers, then it is a success for “engagement purpose.” If you don’t want an agreement so you will fuel dissent to enhance disagreement among people, in this scenario, you don’t care about what’s misleading because the key to success is just active engagement. Let’s see how your mood turns out when you leave Facebook. Is it more happy or dissatisfied than before?
Maybe Facebook is showing information due to your higher engagement to one side. Perhaps your inherent bias is the key driver for the information you are receiving. And the terms Eco-Chamber, misinformation, and manipulation are just highlighting the drift in society.
A major share of people is receiving political insights from Facebook. But, if they tag it with “fake news” and share it, which then define their political stance. While their friends and family receiving it are unaware of the previous one. It may be the core reason for universal distrust on social media for a news source.
So, it’s better to share and engage with more agreeable news for a balanced society.
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