Is social media democratic? Issues regarding social media.

In today’s world, as most of the technologies are digitized, social media is widely used to distribute information, ideas, as well as to communicate. This post will discuss the democratic side of this platform and some of the issues may occur when using social media as the main source of news. The main source of case studies and survey data used to back up later arguments was conducted by the Pew Research Center, whose sample survey are adults in the United State, given the Coronavirus pandemic situation broke out in March 2020.

First, let’s look at how Americans usually find and share information about COVID-19 on social media. According to a Pew Research Center analysis posted on March 1-31, 2020, Coronavirus-related posts managed to be spreeded around on a variety of public Facebook spaces of different topics but barely any of them related to healthcare and science. The study collected a total of 6.5 million posts that mentioned COVID-19 in more than 350,000 public Facebook pages and groups from March 1 to March 31, 2020 (Stocking et al. 1-2). Most of the posts gained a relatively high level of interaction because they linked to new organizations. These new organizations include TV and Digital native outlets. The presence of these pages and groups shows that Facebook users were at times turning to spaces dedicated to their local areas to discuss the pandemic’s impact.

However, social media posts are not only about quantity, but the quality of the post should also be considered. A democratic point about social media is the freedom of speech. One can post their opinions about any hot topics or even share others’ inspirative ideas. As more and more people use social media to publish their ideas, it is harder for the authority to get control of the information’s accuracy and the viewers’ restrictions. There is usually a slow reaction in eliminating false news. Therefore, people who read that news may come to their own illogical conclusions. These self-developed thoughts also divide readers into different groups, which leads to a possibility that different political party’s mindset can influence how people process content in the post. One example of this is the conspiracy “Plandemic” video that went viral in May. Adults who “often” use social media to get news about COVID-19 report higher levels of exposure to the conspiracy theory that the pandemic was intentionally planned by powerful people (Mitchell et al. 1). Republicans and Democrats are both likely to have heard about this conspiracy, but Republicans are much more likely to see the truth in it.

Finally, a drawback of social media that worth mentioning is that it is a source of news, not a news channel where information is plentifully updated daily. Those who rely on social media for news are less likely to get the facts right about the coronavirus and politics and more likely to hear some unproven claims (Mitchell et al. 1-2). The Pew Institution conducted a survey on Oct 29-Nov 11, 2019 to see the proportion distribution of U.S. adults between common ways to get political and election news. Those who focus on getting political news from social media usually don’t pay much attention to coronavirus news (Mitchell et al. 1-2). Based on the Pew Research Center’s survey, people who state that their common source of information is social media show that they don’t closely follow up the news as their test results were near the bottom. One of the reasons for this may be the news suggestion function embedded in the online social platforms. The data filter program in users’ app will identify their information preference and boost it on to their newsfeed so they are always updated.

In conclusion, social media may be a convenient channel for everyone to get information from as they can share and engage with it. Hence, it is not an effective way to gain knowledge. Beside the potential speed of circulating the information in the network, not every news provided by social media is trustworthy and accurate. It would be more adequate to use online social platforms as a secondary source rather than the only way to approach news.

References:

Gottfried, Jeffrey, et al. “Americans’ Views of the News Media During the COVID-19 Outbreak.” Journalism.org, 8 May 2020, www.journalism.org/2020/05/08/americans-views-of-the-news-media-during-the-covid-19-outbreak/.  

Mitchell, Amy, et al. “Three Months In, Many Americans See Exaggeration, Conspiracy Theories and Partisanship in COVID-19 News.” Journalism.org, 29 June 2020, www.journalism.org/2020/06/29/three-months-in-many-americans-see-exaggeration-conspiracy-theories-and-partisanship-in-covid-19-news/.

Mitchell, Amy, et al. “Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media Are Less Engaged, Less Knowledgeable.” Journalism.org, 30 July 2020, www.journalism.org/2020/07/30/americans-who-mainly-get-their-news-on-social-media-are-less-engaged-less-knowledgeable/.

Stocking, Galen, et al. “As COVID-19 Emerged in U.S., Facebook Posts About It Appeared in a Wide Range of Public Pages, Groups.” Journalism.org, 24 June 2020, www.journalism.org/2020/06/24/as-covid-19-emerged-in-u-s-facebook-posts-about-it-appeared-in-a-wide-range-of-public-pages-groups/.

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