There has been a huge tension between Israel and Palestine in the last couple of weeks. The same goes for the disinformation war on the internet. In nearly all social media platforms, indistinctive ideas are flooding. It is never really possible to decide on what is true and what is “fake news”. In conflict studies, none of the theories are neutral. Just like the real social world, every idea, every concept is framed. In social media, we are being faced with various frames from many different (real or created) personalities around the world, and these frames are dangerous in many ways.
Social media is a medium where it is really easy to convince people on an idea. Well, if we have knowledge about a certain topic, it is harder to get persuaded but if we are completely unknowledgeable; we can believe in anything that is being imposed on us. While you are reading, you probably think: No, I am smarter than the others and would distinguish between the real and the fake. Unfortunately, in the world we are living, it is easier to manipulate people online than it was ever before. Bot accounts and popular hashtags will be more than helpful to sweep out the career of an individual or to have political marches.
In political communication, anger is the most mobilizing emotion and it can help to create tension in a society, where there is already hatred towards another group. You may now ask yourself: was it different before the popularity of social media? The answer is simply no. It has been always the same, the media has a huge mobilizing role on people. Since the Cold War, the examples were existent and it still continues. But, what is different? In the first place, there are no regulations towards social media. When I say regulations, I do not mean to limit the freedom of speech but: fact-checking. There have been individuals or NGOs that do this but it is not enough. On the other hand, social media corporations are already limiting the freedom of speech: though, it is also important to know what is freedom of speech? Where is the line between hate speech and freedom of speech? I personally believe this is problematic and should be answered.
The social media problem is not only political, but also it changes our shopping habits. Imagine one day you are scrolling down on Instagram, and notice your favorite influencer advertise a new product; you check their website and see there are a lot of great reviews from 3000 people. You would probably think it is a legitimate website and a product right? Again; how do you know these are legitimate reviews and how do you perceive the influencer genuinely likes it? I might be too suspicious and critical but what I believe is, that now it is really easy to fool people. From another perspective, now we have a lot of opportunities to reach out to many new people. McLuhan’s Global Village now turned into reality. I can even attend the lectures without even leaving my home. It is amazing to meet new people, learn about new cultures, visit museums while still having the comfort of my house. However, how much can I rely on?
Since the beginning of this prolix Covid-19, to clear my mind and to observe different lives, I have been watching reality shows almost every day. What I notice is; nearly all the people showing up on these shows have met someone from social media and leave their family to be with the other. I mean, this is not scientific but based on my observations, I can suggest that social media maintains a perfect field for you to hide the unwanted characteristics and help to create new personalities with new looks. Well, it is just like Sims, you add a personality threat that you relish and how you would like to look, then behave like that. This actually gives people more courage and then the relationships become more fragile. This is because the created person actually never existed.
Is Exclusion Possible?
When people notice social media is being redundant and affecting them negatively, they try to quit it. Most of the time it doesn’t lead to success. The first reason for it is the “casino design”. In casinos, there are not many attractions except for making people gamble and win. Social media is the same, making people win is the main goal, so that they can stay in the game. We also don’t get to see the time. Next time you are using it; try to focus on the clock and notice why there is so much time spent on the app unconsciously.
It is problematic because of this; if we lose the personality what is left to us?
The second reason is actually the FOMO: fear of missing out. When you are online, you get to reach out to what other people do and you like that idea. Even though we want to quit social media, we cannot, mainly because of these reasons. Another aspect is that, on these platforms, we do not get to see unhappy people too often. Frequently, people share their happy moments with others. This actually leads people to the idea that anyone besides me is happy. In society, many problems occur because of this. People want to be like others and eventually, everyone wants to be a part of the norm of society. It is problematic because of this; if we lose the personality what is left to us?
What To Do Then?
In a nutshell, if social media is not being used consciously and carefully, the harm will be spread throughout the whole society. It may be used to create hatred, it may be used to make you spend your time on nothing and it may be used to make you not use your potential. While you are using these platforms, also think of what can I learn and get from them. Otherwise, the screen becomes the reality.
Cover by: Denise Duplinski
Edited by: Melike Cagla Alpay