Chris Marschner has weighed in with an exposition on social media’s impact on public opinion and society, sparked by the post here about a tennis icon’s claim that other sports stars had an obligation to use their fame to push their own often half-baked opinions on their fans.
Here is his Comment of the Day on “Unethical Quote of the Day: Martina Navratilova”:
…Social media is built on the construct of group think. That is why I think it is more dangerous than anything Trump or Clinton may do. The medium is the message.
It is not surprising that every platform uses similar concepts such “followers”. The psychology is that the larger the number of followers the higher the relative credibility. Facebook started this charade by placing a “Friends” counter on the person’s time line. “Likes” are another tool for the message makers. “Likes” are a reinforcement mechanism. Just click the thumbs up sign to validate the idea- don’t add anything- just positively reinforce the thinking. Ever wonder why there is not a dislike icon – thumbs down? Yes there is a means to comment but be prepared to have many weigh in against you if you challenge the group think.
Conceptually, the more friends you have the more socially desirable you are. Everything associated with the desirable one is deemed good until that person is turned out of favor by another. Adherence to the principal’s POV is a must or one can be turned out of the fold. One of the early methods of cyber bullying was to start a defriending campaign against a member of the group that the person with the most friends determined needed to be shunned. This was prevalent among young girls. That method escalated to much more grievous methods some of which were so emotionally debilitating that some committed suicide. Not peep from Martina when that was happening.
Twitter should have been called Twaddle because much of what is communicate is half baked ideas and half truths that do not warrant a great deal of attention. Few things of importance can be communicated in only 140 characters. Messages about Jasper, Dana Perino’s dog, may be fine within her family but who the hell should really care about what Jasper did today? How many people re-tweeted such drivel simply because they have an affinity for a press secretary who took over for Tony Snow in the Bush administration. Nothing more than self promotion for Ms. Perino.
However, when the twaddle is repeated enough it’s “trending” which is a term designed to suggest this is very important. All it really means is that someone made a remark that many repeated. Here is the rub, for you as a twitter user, to demonstrate your influence you must get followers and you cannot get followers unless you create or repeat other tweets. The more you put out the higher the likelihood to get followers. The more followers you get the implication is that your ideas must carry substantial weight. There is no vetting of your following. They can be geopolitical experts or simply people that play video games in a dark basement.
Instagram just announced a new way for propaganda to be shared. From their site
“Now, with stories on Explore, it’s easier than ever to discover new stories you’ll want to watch.
More than 100 million people visit Explore every day to discover photos and videos from people they don’t yet follow. The new suggested stories section highlights the most interesting stories from across Instagram’s vast global community — and like the rest of Explore, the stories you’ll see are personalized to your interests”.
Product personalization now encompasses political thought. The last line reinforces the idea that you will see only what you want to see. Hardly a means to an informed electorate. As I pointed out in earlier post, Noam Chomsky said to keep the electorate obedient and compliant limit the range of acceptable opinion but allow lively debate within that range.
It’s easy to jump on the train of popular opinion. It’s just real hard to get off when the train reaches a speed that will cause it to come off the rails. One of the reasons I use my real name when I sign in is so that I not just an amorphous data delivery system cranking out memes that fit a particular political narrative. I am real not a merely hashtag.