On social media, how Fiction Becomes Fact

Effects of Misinformation on Social Media

One of the most popular ways of communicating in modern culture is through social media. The use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is widespread worldwide. People have the chance to share their opinions on these platforms, no matter how erroneous they may be. Sensitive subjects like politics and terrorism are frequently discussed on social media without sufficient or accurate information, which causes societal divisions and animosity toward a centralized authority like the police or the government.

The Spread of Misinformation and Personal Biases

Social media has developed into a place where misinformation is spread and where opinions are influenced by personal biases. It has been proven that information on social media is more likely to be taken as credible by an individual if it coincides with the individual's biased beliefs. Thus, many conspiracy theories concerning the government are more likely to be believed by people who feel disillusioned by the government: "it is the interaction of the technology with our common, often subconscious psychological biases that makes so many of us vulnerable to misinformation, and this has largely escaped notice" (Carey 2). It is often that people believe firmly in some things such as the rigging of an election, without any concrete evidence to back their claims. It can thus be determined that such individuals are biased against a specific candidate for whatever reason. Most of these reasons are deep rooted and contain no meaningful disclamation of the said candidate. For example, a person brought up in a household that believes in communism will grow up with the same believes as that of the family. This is despite having little or no clear knowledge as to why he believes in communism. When the individual goes on social media, he is likely to spread propaganda that puts communism in the good light and discredits all other political philosophies.

The Role of Social Media Platforms

Experts have argued that social media platforms such as Facebook are wired to keep the public hooked on information, whether credible or false: "What it's actually doing is keeping your eyes on the site. It's curating news and information that will keep you watching" (Carey 3). The media platforms thus act as a perfect hub to peddle lies and conspiracies that have no credibility to them. In this scenario, two factors play a key role. The urban myth commonly referred to as memes and the prejudices of the individuals. These two factors are the main driving force behind the falsehoods that pervade social media platforms. An agreed upon reason why people spread such rumors on social media is because they are psychologically outraged at a particular thing or people. These individuals foster such lies to lash out at a particular object. The result of social memes and falsehoods are either they go viral or they die down before they reach many people: "Most lies and false rumors go nowhere, but the rare ones with appealing urban-myth 'mutations' find psychological traction, then go viral" (Carey 3). The effects of this falsehoods range between mild and very severe depending on how viral it is and how sensitive the falsehood is to society.

Information Overload and Confirmation Bias

The social media platforms also peddle information at such a high rate. The fact checkers are thus not able to check the information being transferred: "One reason is the raw pace of digital information sharing, he said: 'The networks make information run so fast that it outruns fact-checkers' ability to check it' (Carey, 4). The Facebook algorithm is wired to rank information according to popularity. In a way, the Facebook platform is dependent on the preferences of people. It is thus the people who have the choice to peddle and access information: "...to contrary news and commentary than Facebook's own algorithmic ranking which gauges how interesting stories are likely to be to individual users, based on data they have provided" (Carey 4). However, the cognitive biases of human beings remain the main reason why misinformation is peddled on social media platforms. Another cause for people believing falsehoods on social media lies in the repetitive nature of such messages. An example of this is a news headline. Many people may believe it solely because it is constantly being repeated on social media platforms. It has also been proven that the social circle which an individual keeps may either make him more susceptible to believing outrageous stories on social media or not.

The Influence of Social Media

Conclusively, it takes a lot of mental energy to relieve an individual of biased thoughts and reasoning. This is further made tougher by the easy access of social media platforms globally. The amount of information being peddled worldwide is too much for fast checkers to filter through. Social media has also inspired many changes in society. Some of these changes have been good while some of them have served to only foster divisions along political and social lines. Social media platforms are thus a very strong source of influence in society. Thus, it should be treated with the due caution and integrity that it deserves.

Works Cited

Carey, Benedict. How Fiction Becomes Fact on Social Media. The New York Times. Online Source. 2017.

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