Social Media Isn't the Problem... We Are
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“Power doesn’t always corrupt, but power always reveals.”
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
Conspiracy theories and fear-mongering were common much before social media existed.
Y2k, the fear of computers not recognizing the year 2000 and crashing, as they were not programmed to handle dates beyond 1999, was blown out of proportion back in the late 90s.
Social media, whether it is Facebook or a Clubhouse audio chat room, is simply a powerful tool to connect with like-minded people and do stuff, anything that people do otherwise, good or bad.
Fake news is often credited as the biggest demon-child of social media. The truth is that fake news has existed centuries before when people published pamphlets and newspaper columns to taint their(political) rivals.
Political activism, unethical lobbying and spreading false propaganda were seen many decades before social media came along.
For people in the media, like TV journalists and podcasters, things have changed a lot. A few decades ago, content was produced for a few outlets, channels and newspapers, and creators had to make it universally likeable, focusing on the consensus.
When the internet came, and there were thousands of choices available, news agencies and media publishers switched to a different strategy to sell their content in a crowded marketplace: Controversy.
The end result is a media circus, which distorts reality to resemble a wrecking ball hurdled on our planet.
Just like heavy metal music, rap music and violent video games were blamed for corrupting entire generations, social media is the latest villain, seemingly able to corrupt minds at break-neck speed and on a much grander scale.
Social media and content companies like Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, Youtube and Netflix all seem like agents of destruction, affecting people of all ages using addictive algorithms, changing their mood, happiness levels and self-esteem.
It is common to hear that social media addiction leads to depression, chronic anxiety and increased suicidal tendencies, especially in youngsters.
Correlating social media usage with depression and anxiety is fundamentally flawed, and there is solid research to prove the reverse: Anxiety and depression drive people towards social media.
Social media has been blamed for large, widespread public protests, promotion of radical conspiracy theories, threats and hate-mongering.
Social media is in fact the latest tool for things happening for centuries, just like letters, radio and the telephone. Polarization is not happening due to social media, but due to the growing income inequality, globalization and multiculturalism.
The disparity in the amount of content creation gives rise to fanatic influencers who rack up most of the noise, resulting in truth getting drowned and falsehoods(repeated often and loud) becoming the mainstream beliefs.
Google and Facebook, the companies most people believe are profiting off the disinformation and conspiracy theories, have shown that they are all in fact trying to diffuse the problem and remove the ‘looney figures’ spreading hatred and fake news.
The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, essentially states that a majority of output is a result of a much smaller input. Similarly, the 90/9/1 rule talks about the content that is generated on the internet.
According to this rule, 1 percent of users generate a huge majority of content(90 percent) acting as content creators. 9 percent of users create 10 percent of the content, and the rest of the 90 percent of users are simply an audience.
Social media focuses on two very different extreme versions of reality, the very good and the very bad.
This is because normal beliefs and regular content do not provide the ‘clicks’ or the ‘eyeballs’. It has not corrupted mankind, but only revealed again what mankind really is.
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