Does social media fail us?
In the wake of the recent terrible news, maybe the right question is not “How does social media fail us?” but rather, “Is there any occasion that social media doesn’t fail us?” In the age of algorithms, we are losing the chance to create a global positive atmosphere via social media by every update that Facebook or Instagram does. As they are trying to get the most clicks out of their users, they tweak the algorithms so that the users would only see content that they would most likely interact with. The algorithms do not discriminate content based on the correctness or the social effect. They show you your quick fix. Are you a white supremacist? Here is your daily fix of various news on the false notion of why immigration is bad for you. Are you a Democrat? Here is the 10 content that will let you laugh or get angry at the Make America Great Again “MAGA” enthusiasts. All you need to do is not really think much about the content you have been showed but rather just click on the like or the retweet so that your friends would all feel exactly as you have a second ago. In the end, we all become slaves to these algorithms. We are the sheep in these farms.
Since social media outlets feed on the polarization of any issue, they drive it as well. They do it by putting you in prisons of likeminded content. All you see is just another way of saying what you were already thinking. Social media doesn’t let you mingle with the “enemy” so that there is no meaningful conversation. The whole system is based on reaction and controversy. You see the people with opposing views at their worst, all the time.
That’s why things like this happen: Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been using Instagram to regularly post Infowars videos that often include hate speech, conspiracy theories, and appearances from other extremist figures banned by the platform. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, is the only major social media platform that still permits Jones’ use after he and several other Infowars-affiliated accounts were banned from Facebook, YouTube, Apple, and Spotify in August 2018.
It is unrealistic to expect Mark Zuckerberg or any other CEO of major social media outlets to solve this problem on their own. If they solve the problem, the world would be a better place, but Zuckerberg would be poorer. So I guess he just doesn’t care.
However, after the horrible attack in New Zealand, the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is taking action to make social media platforms more accountable. She first refused a visit by Zuckerberg, saying that she doesn’t see any value in a PR stunt at that time. Now she is demanding answers and solid actions. Ardern has said she will seek talks with Facebook on its efforts to stop circulation of the video of the attackers. The social network’s livestreaming system was rolled out to all users as Facebook Live in 2016 and has increasingly become known for a series of murders and suicides broadcast on the system.
“This is an issue that goes well beyond New Zealand but that doesn’t mean we can’t play an active role in seeing it resolved,” said Ardern. “This is an issue I will look to be discussing directly with Facebook.”
I wish that all the political leaders would be as relentless as she is against the social media platforms that force us into horrific content, making us more miserable every day. This has to change.