How Social Media Is Contributing To The Propagation Of Problematic Ideals

On my last post, i mentioned in passing the filter bubble, a state of intellectual isolation incurred by social media users because of the way which the algorithms used to manage the sites work. On this post,i am going to be expounding this phenomena in more detail.

The run up to the 2016 US presidential election was probably the most evident case of the filter bubble in action. The MAGA train,as Trump supporters are known,garnered notoriety for their cult like presence on most social media sites.

From Russian bot accounts to burner accounts,they flooded social media sites especially Facebook and Twitter with propaganda which was in line with their movement and it worked like a charm,as evidenced by Trump residing in the White House today which put to shame most people's predictions including my own and even Hillary's.

How the spread of that social media propaganda worked was that it isolated people,specifically Trump supporters,to a particular group of people who followed the same ideals as they did. This meant that these ordinary people did not have access to any other information except the one they got from their fellow passengers of the MAGA train. That is exactly how the filter bubble works.

Humans are social creatures and we thrive from interacting and socializing with other humans. It makes us feel like we belong.Ethically done,this interaction should create a melting pot of different ideas which would further aid in creating more tolerance among people. Unfortunately , as evidence by Facebook's numerous user privacy violations,ethics and social media are like water and oil.

The way most of these sites' algorithms work is that they act in the opposite way that human socialization should work.Instead of exposing users to differing perspectives about social issues,what they do is that they create an intellectual isolation,exposing users only to perspectives that are the same as theirs as evidence by the existence of different cliques on Twitter like "Black Twitter","MAGA Twitter","Stan Twitter" etc.

This leads to users becoming slowly initiated into believing that their opinions and ideals they follow,no-matter how problematic,are indeed the holy grail because they would be surrounded by people who assert that notion. Their view of the world gets narrowed down to what they and their followers/friends believe to be true and this is how intolerance is born.

Let us go back to the aforementioned scenario with the MAGA train and use it as an analogy to explain the filter bubble effect. Imagine ,prior to the election run,someone who was still undecided about who to vote for created a Twitter account in order to follow the activities of both candidates. Out of curiosity,they follow an account called "Patriots For MAGA". What the Twitter algorithm then does is that it "suggests" other accounts which are in line with that particular followed account,so they would suggest other pages like "BUILD THE WALL", "DEPORT THE ALIENS" etc.

The user then gets sucked into this rabbit hole of MAGAism all because they had initially followed one account. They are now surrounded by a pool of people who are spewing the same hateful bile and because of how socialization and group think works,they end up conforming to those ideals and eventually boarding the MAGA train too.

From the above analogy,one can instantly recognized how easier it is to become radicalized to problematic ideals on social media. All it takes is clicking one button and then suddenly, one is surrounded surrounded by what the algorithms want you to see.

Social media has greatly changed the way humans interact and not all the change is good. It had the potential to improve communication and relation but because of greed and sheer timidity in regards to its negative effects and remedying them by executives,it is instead significantly contributing to the propagation of hate,ignorance and other problematic ideals which are prevalent on these sites.

This Economist article puts forward the reinvigoration of libraries as a way to counter the effects of right wing populism,a doctrine which is spurred on by the filter bubble effect, because libraries offer a place where people from all backgrounds get to be in one place and form the proverbial melting pot.

As much as that is a probable solution,the reality is that,as the world is going digital,more and more people are spending more time on their phones than in the library, so if we want to change human interactions so as to be more inclusive,that change has to start where most people reside,their phones.

It is time legislators put more pressure on social media companies to scrutinize their algorithms and put an end to the intellectual isolation phenomena which is so prevalent on there. This can only happen when they are threatened with action which is going to hurt their precious pockets which they are lining by promoting ignorance and hate to their billions of users. Only then can the world escape the filter bubble effect and hence have any hope of using social media as a means of promoting more tolerance,sympathy and compassion.



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