Social media has mastered the extraction and exhibition of diverse opinions. The effect this has on areas like politics can shape interesting scenarios.
Growing presence of social media
Social media was started with the goal to attract an audience. Succeeding the prerequisite, it has managed to shape mindsets and ideologies, strengthening its image in society. While social media, as a term, is a modern invention, its attractions are similar to influential books in the early stages of humanity.
Hosting the inherent ability to foster and amplify voices, individuals are drawn to the proposition of their opinions being valued. This can birth both positive and negative consequences. One of the areas where this constant flow of opinions has struck the most is the world of politics. Social media has the ability to manipulate minds. This can create unconventional areas of thinking, desired by those in power.
Ability to manipulate
YouTube, as an example, manages to digest millions of views on its conspiracy theory videos. This allows the social media platform to serve as a tool of political indoctrination. Through repetition of certain agendas, videos can create unwarranted feelings of hate towards targeted groups. This can further alleviate conflicts and create disruption among populations.
Misleading information used to promote these political agendas can be labelled as propaganda. Propaganda has a historical context of lending the hands of those in power. During the reign of Hitler, Nazi Propaganda was a crucial aspect leading up to the persecution of the Jews. While such events are unlikely to repeat, social media holds the power to spread propaganda quickly.
Cunning design of social media
Social media’s addictive design manages to project massive influence. The medium uses the psychological idea of a “flow”. This idea relies on the fact that individuals skip from one platform to another in search of gratification and validation. Through flow, the act of spreading agendas can be accelerated while simultaneously riding headwinds during political processions.
Through hosting algorithms that can, through virality, amplify existing prejudices, social media can be used as a weapon to decimate practicality. India fosters almost 70% of Hindu devotees. With social media, parties looking to gain majority can spread misinformation against other religious groups (constituting the minority). This can create political polarization and can threaten, the already failing, system of democracy in India.
Understanding better usage
While the abundance of negative connotations floods every medium, social media can be used for reshaping ideologies for the better. Ushering in respectful debates focused on the topics of racism or homophobia can help individuals view perspectives that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Many of the false propaganda flooding the internet can be rivalled by experts.
Using statistics and other practical mediums of validation, correct information can stop further misinformation. However, there are a few discrepancies in this as well. For example, In the US, According to Stanford University, abortion reduced crimes rate by 50%. According to Guttmacher institute, the abortion rate for black women is five times than that for white women. Finally, according to the Heritage Foundation, from 2011 to 2020, the percentage of black criminals increased by 3.2% to 32.7%. Given the three statistics, this data could be manipulated to further alleviate racist sentiments.
Social media is an addictive medium. Given the usage techniques are ethical, social media can be used to create further solidarity among societies. However, the privilege of anonymity can still rescue people, spreading misinformation. Therefore, the surface of social media demands surveillance. After all, for content to achieve virality, it doesn’t necessarily need to make sense.