The Problematic Media that is Social Media
It is no surprise that social media is one of the most used interactive platforms in the 21st century. It is where users are enabled to create content, share ideas, and participate in discussions and the like. Moreover, social media, with its wide coverage and accessibility, is used for communication and sharing of information – arguably becoming the most powerful tool in this era. However, despite social media's uses, one could not deny that there are pieces of information released in any social media platforms that could easily distort the truth.
Some argue that social media's purpose is to inform the masses of what is going on at the moment. Those who are for the informative nature of social media argue that social media spreads information faster than news sites. From disasters to attacks to other such information – social media is somehow responsible for reporting it quickly. According to the BBC News report during the Paris attacks in 2015, social media such as Twitter and Facebook unfolded the order of events right when it is happening before other news outlets could do so. Social media’s purpose is mainly to educate, inform, and relay information quickly for the benefit of those who need it. There was also another incident in which social media – particularly Twitter – had broken more details before health officials could do so. According to the American Journal of Infection Control in 2015, Twitter had relayed details of the Ebola Outbreak in Nigeria and Sierra Leone in 2014 to over 60 million people before an official statement had been made – which helped in the infection control.
Though social media has been nothing but helpful especially for information dissemination, it’s the ability to twist and enable misinformation and unreliable sources that makes it more dangerous than one could decipher. Many would agree that social media warrants every type of news – which means that even falsified information would also be in the mix. Social media sensationalizes headlines that are horrific and outright exaggerated since it is what catches their eyes first. Users only see the headline and instantly assume the worse and spread it to other platforms with fake information on hand. According to a study published by the journal Science in March 2018, over-sensationalized false news spread six times faster than the actual truth, especially on Twitter. It is also said that Twitter users only realized that it wasn't the truth right after they shared it. Although recently, Twitter has updated its system on user-experience by prompting a netizen know to read the article first before clicking the retweet button.
Oftentimes, users usually don't check and research if what they are reading is true or not. The headline is where they will only base their opinions and thoughts. Users are more likely to be governed by their feelings rather than rationality. Some users even deliberately misinform the people to further their agenda regardless of its authenticity and who the receivers may be. This blatant misinformation and skewing of details would destroy many things, such as the lives of real people, the reputation of an establishment, and many more – especially if these pieces of information are genuinely false.
Truly, social media is a good platform for quick and easy news reports. However, its dangerous nature outweighs the good. For all the helpful information social media has given, there are still plenty of misleading details that are spread more often, which makes social media an unreliable and untrustworthy source of information.