Social media madness
Anyone who has been exposed to any level of online news will have, by now, been made aware that social media has been used as a platform in attempts to manipulate public opinion in the US 2016 presidential elections, the UK Brexit referendum and our own referendum on repealing the eight amendment to the constitution.
There is now no doubt at all as to whether these campaigns took place, the main controversy is still over who paid for them, whether they were legal and what effect they may have had.
I must admit to being a mere dabbler in social media. While I use Twitter a lot, I dislike Facebook from a personal perspective, and use it mainly as a picture sharing platform with tight privacy controls for use with far flung relatives. The rest I have a passing knowledge of and entirely zero engagement with.
“While it is true that more traditional news outlets have lost credibility in recent years and been undermined by accusations of fake news and driving their own agendas, to turn to social media for the hope of better, more accurate information is akin to praying to Paddington for seasonal rains”
Twitter, I use extensively, in a professional and personal capacity, and have even hired a most excellent professional as a result of an exchange on the platform. I’ve also done late night tech support for a screen writer struggling with a beta OS on which I had had a tech briefing and established the provenance of a vintage racing machine having been put in touch by one of its pilots with the former race engineer who had looked after it.
Despite these memorable experiences, I still do not trust social media in the slightest.
I presume everything has been manufactured, edited, altered and in ways I can’t necessarily detect, manipulated for an end. This may be to garner followers, or likes or dislikes, as the case may be. It seems that driving the outage bus is a profession in itself these days. But I am perpetually reminded of the quote attributed to Jeremy Paxman, though which he vigorously denies, that one must lead from the presumption that everyone on social media (though the apocryphal quote applied to politicians) is lying.
From the duck-faced postings of posing and pouting wannabes, to the perfect depictions of idyllic life or the azure-tinted captures of someone else’s holiday, these things are not necessarily representative of reality. In as much as any advertisement is an ideal, the picture you see posted on social media is more than likely shot number 76 in a series of 148 that fails to capture the row before hand, sulks afterwards, or massive building site with open sewer just out of shot.
There have even been worries that social media is leading to a new kind of social anxiety that multiplies the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses effect, resulting in depression, envy and misery.
Other, though even less scientific, estimates, albeit from a 2015 New York Times article, say that more than 3% of all internet traffic is made up exclusively of cat videos. I’d wager the vast majority of that traffic is on social media platforms.
So to return to the opening point of the attempts at manipulation of public perceptions via social media, one must beg the question, how can anyone who is even mildly familiar with any of the media in question form a political view based on what they see there?
It is utterly baffling!
It’s like deciding how to vote on a serious issue based on a combination of Hello Magazine, Dilbert and Fantastic Tales!
While it is true that more traditional news outlets have lost credibility in recent years and been undermined by accusations of fake news and driving their own agendas, to turn to social media for the hope of better, more accurate information is akin to praying to Paddington for seasonal rains.
And now, on top of all of this, Facebook has bravely come out and said that it has neutralised accounts that it suspects were being used to coordinate a campaign of manipulation ahead of the US mid-terms. Well bully for you! Why it could not have done so on previous occasions when it was pointed out to them is still open to question, but again is sort of peripheral to the point — anyone who forms an opinion on how to act in the real world, let alone vote in an actual political contest, based on what they have learned via social media needs to ask themselves some serious questions.
If you would not be willing to change your vote based on the deeply held beliefs of Spongebob Squarepants, then do not let anything you see on social media sway your opinion forming faculties.