In the interconnected world of today, Social Media platforms act as a powerful catalyst to change our imagination into reality. It has the power to manipulate our understanding of right and wrong. Surely, it is a great tool to stay connected with your friends and loved ones. Even some might say, that using social media is the best way to stay updated with what happening around the world.
But… social media has played its fair share of role in giving birth to fake news, violence, anxiety and depression.
Recently, a trend on TikTok went viral pertaining to videos about Osama bin Laden’s 2002 “Letter to America”. The letters from Al Qaeda’s founder give an alternate perspective to US involvement in the Middle East. The documents also contain his criticism of the US supporting Israel leading to the Palestinian people’s oppression.
But, the problem started when TikTok users started sharing links to The Guardian’s transcripts of Laden’s letters and many users started sympathising with a terrorist who nearly killed 3000 people in the 9/11 attacks in the US.
However, later hashtag #LetterstoAmerica was removed by the platform but the damage was already done!
TikTok is a China-grown social media platform or may I say a trojan horse. Its algorithm is destroying the young generation’s minds in all countries except China, where algorithms push for more educational content for its citizens. Also, how often TikTok has been blamed for being an intelligence-gathering spyware aiding the Chinese government is another topic.
Algorithms to Get You Addicted
In simple words, algorithms refer to the set of rules used to solve a problem or carry out a task usually by a computer. Social media uses algorithms to show you the most relevant content that you might take an interest in. But it is not as simple as it seems!
If you want to know the reality of how social media viciously manipulates you then, you should watch “The Social Dilemma”. This film shows how social media companies use psychological and behavioural tricks that use your data to get you addicted to their platform. This film was released in 2020 on Netflix. It is a docudrama (documentary + drama) that exposes how social media giants tracked our online activities and then used these data to train artificial intelligence models to predict our future actions.
Tristan Harris, former Google design ethicist points out 3 goals of all social media giants:
- To get users to keep scrolling and engage as much as possible.
- Growing the platform by making users come back and invite more friends.
- Making money from advertising.
Social media is free to use but really, there is nothing free in this world. Harris concluded this by giving us a warning –
If you’re not paying for the product, you are the productTristan Harris, The Social Dilemma
The film also outlines some major concerns regarding the impact of social media that are:
- Technological addiction
- Fake news
- Anxiety and depression
Let’s discuss how technology addiction has given rise to anxiety and depression and how fake news or misinformation is fueling the monster within us.
Negative Effects of Social Media: Creating a Monster Within Us
Technological addiction refers to the state when you constantly want to plug into social media or video games or internet surfing. Simply, one cannot control the time spent with these platforms. This can affect our psychological health and can lead to depression, anxiety, loneliness, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts and poor concentration.
With regard to social media, one may feel fear of missing out and hence want to constantly check-in and stay updated on the curated version of their friends and the world in general.
The curated nature of social media images of success, beauty, and happiness often presents a polished version of reality and can take a toll on mental health.
The relentless exposure to curated online personas can create unrealistic expectations and fuel a sense of inadequacy among young people. This may lead to a distorted perception of success and failure, reshaping the boundaries of right and wrong in the pursuit of societal approval.
The instant gratification of likes and shares triggers a reward system in our brains, influencing our behaviour and reinforcing certain online activities. The most sane ones are now in the race to seek attention.
Grandchildren using grandparents for likes, parents using their toddlers, fake gurus teaching you tips and tricks that they personally have never used in their life, teenagers engaging in sexual innuendo attracting attention from paedophiles…but hey it increases likes and followers.
Like, share, and subscribe are the only things these people care about. Some people only want to associate with you if you have more followers and more influence than them which in turn can impact their social media influence as well.
The Era of Fake News and Disinformation
One can clearly remember the amount of fake news spread during the COVID-19 pandemic like it was caused by bats eating Chinese, the Italian prime minister crying over dead bodies, Masks not working, killing only obese people, vaccines creating heart diseases, etc. To prevent fake news regarding COVID Google flag such videos or articles as misinformation.
Some big multinational corporations have been constantly battling the effects on their brand reputation and asking for a robust third-party news-checker.
Even in the Ukraine-Russia war, misleading videos of unrelated explosions went viral. Deepfakes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s fleeing the country spread like wildfire so much so that he himself had to come online and inform other citizens that he is still in Ukraine. The most bizarre one out of this was “Ghost of Kyiv” which claimed to have single-handedly destroyed 6 Russian jets.
The same things are happening to the Israel-Hamas war. People seem to be more divided than ever.
It is high time that social media users should be in alert mode while using their favourite online platforms. After watching the news, even from a credible source should fact-check on a personal level.
Also, make a habit of taking timely breaks from social media and going out in nature for the sake of your perception of Right and Wrong.
And remember… everything that you see on social media is far from the REALITY.
Subscribe to our newsletter!