Social Media Polarized

Social Media Users

In my previous blog post, I touched on how social media can make us feel connected but are we really missing out on a connection because we have less face to face interaction? Read more about that here: https://medium.com/@janaflora/connection-or-connected-a56d9a06c8b2

Feeling Connected

What makes us feel connected when we use social media? We seek out support from people we have similar interests and thoughts as our self. We may share a good a good laugh, electronically, with an emoji, when we find something with our “friend” that we both think is funny. If people post pictures or videos of what they are doing with their lives, we can connect by liking or commenting on what they share in their news feed. Perhaps, just by “sharing” on social media it allows us to feel more connected. While being connected on social media can see like rainbows and roses there is a polar opposite side to this electronic connection.

Face to Face connection

Algorithms and Cognitive biases

How algorithms and cognitive biases can intensify homophily and contribute to isolation? If we feel passionate about a subject and we research it on the internet, post about it or like and share about what we feel passionate about, we are likely to get an algorithm that coincides with our opinion and not an opposite opinion. Because that is how algorithms work. It will only deepen our sense of “I am right because I am right” cognitive bias. We may not be able to see another person’s perspective, because like a tea bag, we are thoroughly seeped in our own opinion. We can have friends that disagree with our way of thinking but if we are not willing to get outside our minds, it is easy for isolation to increase. Cognitive bias allows for homophily to increase we only want to see our side of the equation and will seek out those that agree with us. Hate speech and bullying are extreme but sad examples of cognitive bias and homophily. If we dislike another person or a group of people, we can rally others that agree with us to engage in hate speech and bullying. And when we rally others to our side, cognitive biased in our thinking of “we are right because we can’t be wrong”.

Social Media as Constructive

How can we use social media to be constructive instead of destructive? To make the world a better place instead of darker place? We can be open and discuss another’s point of view, do fact checking and create diversity. Social media is a platform that can be used to spread rumors, very quickly, all over the world. Some of them are harmless, while other are harmful and spread like wildfire. You can have friends and when you have divisive views, agree to disagree and move on. That creates diversity and, if you listen long enough, you may gain insight into the other person’s point of view. Just because you disagree with someone, does not mean you have to hate them. Barbarella, C. Wagner, Kietzmann, & McCarthy(2018), when speaking of social media, said, “the “bright side” of social media and its uptake by society has received much research attention while the corresponding “dark side” of social media has received much less research attention.” We can raise awareness of the dark side of social media by using social media as a platform to blog about it, post a You Tube video about it, and have open honest discussions. Radovic, Gmelin, Stein & Miller (2016;2017;) wrote about a story that included adolescents who were diagnosed with depression and how they feel about social media. Radovic, Gmelin, Stein & Miller (2016;2017;) summarized “adolescents said positive use of social media included searching for positive content (i.e. for entertainment, humor, content creation) or for social connection and negative use included sharing risky behaviors, cyber-bullying, and for making self-denigrating comparisons with others.” As a society, we can do better! It affects adults and adolescents. Use social media constructively.

Reference

Baccarella, C. V., Wagner, T. F., Kietzmann, J. H., & McCarthy, I. P. (2018). Social media? it’s serious! understanding the dark side of social media. European Management Journal, 36(4), 431–438. doi:10.1016/j.emj.2018.07.002

Radovic, A., Gmelin, T., Stein, B. D., & Miller, E. (2016;2017;). Depressed adolescents’ positive and negative use of social media. Journal of Adolescence, 55, 5–15. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.12.002

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