Social media, fake news, and the echo chamber

We’re living in an age of unprecedented hyperconnectivity, technologists have provided us with many powerful platforms to communicate, connect, express ourselves, and spread information. But what was in theory the revolution of the information age, turned out to be another manifestation of that proverbial double edged sword.

Entertainment, fun stuff, and jokes are great things and we all need spirit up-lifters on almost a daily basis. But when most of the focus and the content becomes about pointless babble and different types of behaviors that can be categorized as the continuation of the annoying chain mails of the 2000s, then we’re doing something wrong; when writing a trivial tweet gets me tens of retweets and lots of engagement, and a pertinent tweet goes ignored then we must be doing something wrong. 

The amount of distraction and the mechanical way by which we’re leading our lives into the future without enough interest in things that matter are just appalling, we’re drowned by the current moment without learning lessons of history nor anticipating enough for the future. But it still continues to be a race forward with whatever feeds selfishness and inflates egos.

Curiosity, the ability to take different ideas into consideration, and that will to learn and discover are all sided away. We look for what reinforces our convictions, confirms all kinds of knowledge(not necessarily true or factual) we hold onto so passionately, and reject everything else without even a minimal consideration. Which brings us to echo chambers, because social media isn’t broadly social, we’re not connecting for real, we’re not touching upon new ideas and starting new dialogues, we only push and amplify our convictions and prejudices, and we connect only with people who hold the same beliefs we hold, in a big echo chamber. We reinforce these beliefs for each other and amplify them, and what separates us from anything outside this chamber is a war line, the brutality by which people with different opinions attack each other is unbelievable, comments’ sections and twitter threads ooze with hatred whenever there’s discord.

And all this susceptibility to whatever confirms our beliefs made social media, with its international and instant reach, the perfect platform for fake news and propaganda. What is our biggest machine in size and complexity -the global communications network- has become a major tool of propaganda, and fake news cut through it like a hot knife in butter because we’re trapped within our narrow-mindedness, we instantly believe what’s in line with our points of view even if it’s fake, and reject what we don’t like even if it’s true. And social media companies, who run algorithms that suggest to us things we like, amplify this vicious circle and make it even worse; they want more engagement, they thrive on it to get more clicks and more impressions on ads they post to pile up more cash, so they push us deeper into that echo chamber. And in reality they don’t have an economic incentive to fight fake news, on the contrary it benefits them, so we’re left with whatever ethical standards these companies may or may not hold as the only defense line to curb this phenomena.

I just want to make an appeal to all of us to just take a minute and think about rationalizing our behavior on social media, it’s a powerful tool, we can use it too to bridge gaps, acquire knowledge, and spread positivity. Let’s do more of that.

Comments

Mouna Jabri said…
youre still the very good writer I know :)
me said…
Thank you Mouna :)

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