By Sam Rezazadeh, November 29 2020—
A stressful election that had the world wondering and stalling for far too long is finally over. Joe Biden became the president-elect and we all turned off our political news channels and Twitter notifications to get on with our lives. But are we truly moving on with our lives though? Or does social media have us chained to our electronic devices?
Social media platforms once again showed us who has the power — the Internet. The beauty of social media is in its ability to create real-time and fast connections amongst people. However, we saw the dreadful side effect of this double-edged sword in the recent United States presidential election. This bipartisan country was torn almost in half with Republicans and Democrats fighting bitterly on social media.
In his Forbes article, Peter Suciu interestingly claims that social media is a determining force to predict the outcome of this election. With 70 per cent of the United States’ population being plugged into the cyber world, He analyzes the online campaigns and the candidate’s social media presence..
Regardless of who became the president-elect, the behaviour of voters reveals something scary — many online users are enslaved by the burden of social media platforms. I want to show you some of the ways in which social media is deliberately taking control over our political subconscious and the ways we can regain the control back.
Users hear, but they don’t listen!
Social media users are bombarded with a massive wave of political information every minute of the day. As we are walking through the streets, our personal news anchor vibrates with notifications in our pockets that makes us reach out and check our phones to see what has happened. The hyper-social environment with more than two billion social connections that our mobile phones provide is the driving force of desire for us to be constantly attached to our smartphones. To be connected means dopamine and social rewards for our brains, as Trevor Haynes states.
It gives us pleasure to check our phones for a new notification, especially when it involves interesting and challenging topics like politics. But think about it this way — how many of us truly reach out to see the information we are getting represents all sides of the story? We have seen how in the early days of the election some right-leaning news channels like Fox News were praising Donald Trump and how left-inclined channels like CNN were against him. But a divided nation of online users tends to stick with only one source of information, which tends to be the one that agrees with their personal values the most. That is why a conservative voter probably just sticks with Fox News and a more liberal voter might just stick with channels like CNN.
We all know that there are always two sides to any given story or narrative, and the news or other political agencies try to write the report of the incidents according to their own agenda. The danger of this practice is that the users, the chained-to-our-phone people, only hear and absorb the information from one source without listening to see what the message is.
Supporters on opposite sides of political spheres are only hearing one side of the story and not listening to the other side. Social media platforms use algorithms to show you what you are craving the most and they don’t care if their approach is leading to an offline and in-person battle between people.
How can we stop this you might ask? The answer is simple. Online social media users can use the said algorithms for their own advantage. From now on, instead of just getting your news and political information from only one source, try to tune into the other side’s channels of information as well so you can stimulate your brain to gather information from all the sides first before making an informed decision and conclusion about a matter. By searching for the other side’s information on your social media platforms, you are tricking these systems to make them show you a more colourful and diverse web of information drawn from different political perspectives and to enrich your news feeds. So next time you see a post on CNN’s Instagram account praising your favourite politician, it would be nice to check the Fox News Instagram account as well to see what they are saying too.
Don’t forget, there are always two sides to a story.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.