Misinformation On Social Media

Social media has greatly improved the convenience of our lives.Unlike in the years preceding 2004, communication is much more easier,cheaper and more efficient. You looking for your primary school best-friend you have not seen in a decade plus?Just search them on Facebook.You want to follow all the details about an unfolding major event?Just check your Twitter timeline.You looking to see what your favorite celebrity was wearing at the Grammys?Instead of waiting for a weekly copy of a tabloid magazine like in the early 2000s,just open your Instagram. The world is much more smaller,convenient and accessible,all thanks to the different social media platforms,but like with almost everything that involves us humans,there is a downside to this major advancement in the way we communicate.

Because information nowadays is easy to both disseminate and access,there is a vast majority of information about any topic available on the internet,some of it being true and some of it being false. Unlike in the old days where only people in the media industry had the means to disseminate information,in the modern days,all you need is a social media account with a few thousand followers and you can be able to inform and influence the views of those people who follow your page. Although this can be an advantage because it is an easier and effective means of communication as already mentioned,when used with deceptive intentions,that effectiveness can suddenly turn into a disadvantage.

It is human nature to always be in the look out for new and interesting information and social media platforms offer this information at your fingertips,literally. This sounds like all good news because hey,who does not want an easier and cheaper way of accessing information instead of paying ridiculous amounts of money for newspaper subscriptions right?Like with almost everything that sounds too good to be true,there is a catch. Social media offers this wide range of information but the problem is that,not even a single one of these big social media companies have efficient measures in place to moderate the genuineness of information availed on their platforms. Anyone can post whatever they want on their social media profile and depending on the level of their followers' gullibility, it will be interpreted as the holy grail.

Because of this lack of information moderation,social media is rife with "fake news" and that is not even the scariest part. The scariest part is the number of people who actually believe all the fake information available.  Like i mentioned on my Outrage Marketing post,social media users are reactive to anything they see on their timelines and they are unapologetic in their re-activeness. Once a tweet is posted and it has a few thousand retweets,whoever sees it on their timeline will instantly accept it as fact and react to it. Their entire judgement of the information on that tweet begins and ends with what has been written in that tweet. No one bothers to check the credibility of the information they are reacting to.

With social media,the most popular opinion holds more weight than the most reasonable and logical opinion. It is like no one wants to have a diatribe where each party can present their opinions and both parties deliberate and decide on the most logically sensible opinion.Nowadays, whichever opinion has the most retweets,likes and other metrics used by these platforms is interpreted by the users as the most correct opinion and that is a very dangerous mentality for such a large number of people to have. To add fuel to the already blazing fire of misinformation,most social media algorithms work in such a way that the most popular posts are the ones which appear the most on users timelines. This means that it becomes easy to influence public opinion by the use of "influencers",users who have a high number of followers and hence more reach. Although influencers are mostly used innocently by brands to obtain a broader audience for their products, because of their effectiveness in disseminating information,they can also be used to spread "fake news".

Sensationalism is plethoric in social media platforms and it works very effectively because there is no information dissemination code of conduct to abide by. Anyone can post whatever they want,no-matter how false it is and there will be no repercussions to face. Social media sensationalism is even worse because it is not just "click-baiting" people for some ad revenue,it is blatant lying and misinformation. For example,with Twitter,an influencer only has to put out a 280 character false tweet to their tens of thousands of followers then within a few minutes,that false tweet is already trending and has people offering their opinions and even fighting over each others' opinions. No one even bothers to ask "hey guys,where is this tweet coming from and how can we be sure that whichever information contained in this tweet is true?"People do not need journalism degrees to disseminate information anymore,all they need is a Facebook,Twitter,Instagram etc account with a few thousand followers and then boom,people suddenly worship their opinions.

Because social media companies' executives have been dragging their feet for years in coming up with efficient measures to  curb the propagation of "fake news" on their platforms,the responsibility falls on us the users to verify the information that is availed to us on these platforms. We should move away from this "if it has a lot of retweets/likes ,it is probably true" mentality that currently persists and is being driven by these companies algorithms and instead adopt a culture of fact checking before reacting in order to move away from susceptibility to misinformation.