Nowadays many young adults engage with political, environmental and social issues through the use of social media. We keep ourselves informed about what is happening around us by reading tweets and posts on Instagram. For the younger generations, social media content is the contemporary news. But how fair are social media to their users?
DNA Status: Online
Scrolling through Instagram, I always see a lot of pictures of exotic places around the world and I can’t even start counting the amount of van renovation videos I’ve come across – I feel like the only one missing is mine, if only I had the time and money to buy an old van and start road tripping around the world. However, if I take a peek at my roommate’s feed I realize pretty quickly that she has no such videos. She mostly spends her time watching make-up tutorials, which I rarely ever see. But what if I would like to know more about make-up and the only thing every social media platform I’m on shows me are videos of vans? I mean, as long as the issue is about make-up and van renovation I can say we will all be fine, but social media have way more power than just simple entertainment.
Life In A Bubble
Social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all built on an algorithm that shows posts based on the possible relevance for the user instead of their chronological order. As we all know, millions of people use social media daily and these millions are all different people, there is not one that is just like another. This makes everyone ’s feed completely different from the other. In a way, we could say that our feed is like our DNA, there is no one like ours.
However, some might be very similar to others. If I share a certain interest with someone we are more likely to have the chance to interact through social media and, just like that, because of one simple interest a group of people has in common, filter bubbles are created. We all live in our little bubble, sometimes without even realizing it. These bubbles filter the content we are shown on social media based on topics we previously expressed interest in. This means that all of the rest of the information out there has a very small chance to come across us, restricting us to a certain amount of news.
The Algorithm Controls Our Ideas
Lots of young people today get basic political, social and environmental information thanks to social media. It seems like nobody has the time to watch the news or read a whole article anymore. A tweet is the furthest we can go, so the information better be concise. Although, following the algorithm mentality, when social media platforms will pick up our interests, for example if I like a lot of Trump tweets, the platforms will show me every piece of information in support of Trump ideas shortly after. This same train of thoughts works for every little interest we might have. But, continuing like this, our opinions and beliefs will shape based on what we already know and could agree with, there could be hundreds of different points of view in regards to the same issue but we see only one.
The algorithm is programmed to find out and show us what we are interested in, what we can easily agree with. But, considering the fact that most millennials base their knowledge of the world on social media, is it safe to show them just one side of the coin? Wouldn’t it be better to give us the chance to have information that is more general? Because it is too easy to criticize and judge when you see only one side of the story. Of course, we could say that learning important information through social media might not be the best way but, today, it kind of seems like the only way. Social media give us the possibility to say what we think, they give us the opportunity to think critically. But what if our opinions are based on biased news?
Certainly, the fact that everybody can engage and freely share their thoughts is a step towards a world where freedom of speech is possible for everyone and, sometimes, the more opinions the better. After all, one in between the millions could have the power to change them all. Anyways, everything circles back to privacy, which is a big ethical question nowadays. We openly decide to share our private lives on every existing social media and then we act surprised when people know exactly where we were on the 15th of June at 11:45.
It’s like, all of a sudden, a Wikipedia page could be written about each and everyone of us.
Once we log in a social platform we are asked to agree to an infinite number of terms and conditions in regards to our privacy. Now, let’s be honest, no one ever reads those, but I challenge you to! We always agree without even thinking about it twice and then we start sharing content about our life. This is when it gets interesting. We post pictures including our current location, we tag friends, we copy and paste long lists of hashtags, so that we can reach more people. We share our age, our name, our gender; on Facebook we can even let everyone know who our relatives are and share with the world if we are married or not. It’s like, all of a sudden, a Wikipedia page could be written about each and everyone of us. Right now, I could pick a random profile of a person I barely know on Instagram and, within ten minutes, I would have written down a couple of paragraphs about that person. Pretty crazy, right? We can discover basic personal information about almost everyone who has one social media account, but only think about those who have multiple. We could say that we are all public figures.
Can I Have Some Privacy?
However, who knows us the most, probably even better than our moms, is the system. The Internet is such a complicated and vast world, one that we can’t trace borders of. For what we know, it could be infinite. And every tiny little thing you look up, every single tweet, every interaction is registered in the system. Once you posted it, it’s there and if you delete it, it still won’t be entirely gone. This might mean nothing. I am aware that there is all of my information stored somewhere, in a digital place that is not even material, they probably are there in long lists of codes that nobody understands so, does it really matter? We can just let the system have the information. Although, one big question arises: do we even have any privacy at all anymore?