The Social Media War

And Its Many Smaller Battles

I spend a lot of time on my phone nowadays – as we all do – cycling through various social media apps to see what my friends are doing, entertain myself, or just kill time. This means I see hundreds of posts every day. Some I scroll by and others I read through entirely, but either way they are making their way into my subconscious brain.

Photo by Tracy Le Blanc from Pexels

With the influx of disinformation on the web, this can be a bit more damaging than just rotting my brain by staring at a screen all day. The content itself on that screen can be just as harmful as the blue light exposure.

On my feed there is a constant dance between two sides of an issue, this dance repeating across multiple issues, and the ever present question of just who is correct.

Sometimes it’s a game. Can I figure out which side of an issue I am supposed to land on before I reach the end of a thread?

The pattern goes like this:

  1. Someone posts on their blog, twitter, etc.
  2. Someone else responds about how the OP (original poster) is wrong and this is a bad take
  3. Either the first poster, or a third person, responds yet again to debunk the second person and reestablish the first point as correct

Rinse and repeat.

This creates an endless thread where people are fighting each other online over points of news or facts that it seems no one decides to fact check. A simple google could clear up the facts that are being debated, but it goes further than that.

People bring emotions into the argument, appealing to people on a personal level and trying to make broad moral judgements based on which side of an argument you may land on.

From the PEW Research Center, we know that people are more likely to believe the news is accurate if the story is close to them.

Inflammatory remarks are carefully crafted online in order to increase engagement and coerce people to one side of an argument. Hannah Covington is quoted in a Real Simple article explaining that we should be cautious of anything posing as a news source that is really user generated. Posts that aim to manipulate emotions are of questionable quality at best.

I live in fear that someday I will casually post to Twitter without thinking my comments through, or without checking for typos, and someone will blow it up in an attempt to start drama. I don’t want to be in a fight on the internet, and I do my best to avoid it.

This increases my anxiety surrounding social media. I’m already fighting the constant battle of comparing myself to my friends and to celebrities that I follow, watching their fashion or travel posts roll in and finding my own life lacking. Now I have to quadruple check every word I write to make sure nothing can be misconstrued or blown out of proportion.

The very act of posting can be a minefield.

How do we diffuse this bomb?

Photo by Griffin Wooldridge from Pexels

Spreading awareness of disinformation is important, and many people who have grown up in the digital age know to be wary of any news that seems to lack a source.

Teaching people the four moves from Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers will also save us a lot of strife.

  • Check for Previous Work
  • Go Upstream
  • Read Laterally
  • Circle Back

In the end, we can only give people the tools to fact check. They have to be the ones to use them.

Nicole Gregory

Nicole works at the Harvard Business School and is pursuing the Learning Design and Technology certificate at the Extension School.

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