Stop relying on social media for affirmation and research

Vanguard Illustration | Jolie Wyse

There is no denying that social media has permeated our society, and there are many debates as to the benefits and dangers of this.

While I do believe that social media can be a great way to keep family updated and to stay in touch with friends, there are a lot of dangers involved. Many people know of the possibility of catfishing and the presence of predators on the internet.

One very prominent current issue of this is the Momo hoax.

These things cause a very present danger that is recognizable, but there is also a very present danger on social media that is much less recognizable.

Social media has exasperated our need for affirmation and confirmation bias.

To start off, affirmation is something that we as a society have become addicted to. We post a picture on Facebook or Instagram and then constantly check to see how many likes and comments we have received.

This not only checks us out from being present and in the moment, but it also makes our happiness reliant on the likes and comments of disembodied people.

While liking others’ posts and having our posts liked can create positive feelings, it disconnects us from our actual lives.

Next time, instead of mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, compliment someone in real life.

Even worse than this is the ease of confirmation bias in today’s society.

Social media has made it as easy as one click of a button for people to find non-factual articles supporting their views on a topic.

This can range anywhere from fake news articles to blogs in support of racist or sexist attitudes. This is part of the reason these issues are still so deeply entrenched in our society.

USA Today says, “One of the runners-up for word of the year was ‘echo chamber,’ referring to a sort of bubble where people live with exposure only to their own opinions and those who subscribe to the same ideas. Fake news often bounces around echo chambers with no one to dispute its veracity.”

This means that if we only focus on our social media accounts and we get stuck in the digital world, then all we will ever be exposed to are things that support our views.

We learn nothing about diversity or differing viewpoints. We will never be fully informed on a topic and the differentiations within said topic.

This keeps us trapped in a bubble that supports what we think of the world. This is also what exaggerates the racism and sexism in our society.

Other issues besides sexism and racism are intensified by this confirmation bias.

Another example is parents who are adamant about being anti-vaccination for their children. There is medical evidence that disproves the rumor that vaccinations lead to autism, but these parents are plagued by confirmation bias on all platforms, from Google to social media.

The New York Times says, “They’re not really engaged in a debate about medicine. They’re immersed in a world of conspiracies, in the dark shadows where no data can be trusted, nothing is what it seems and those who buy the party line are pitiable sheep. And, boy, are they living at the right time, when so much information and misinformation swirl by so quickly that it’s easy to confuse the two
and even easier to grab hold and convince yourself of whatever it is you prefer to believe. With Google searches, you find the ostensible proof you seek. On social media, you bask in all the affirmation you could possibly want.”

When using social media or even search engines, we as a society need to be careful of not doing our research and believing the first thing we read. We also need to put our phones down and allow ourselves to be exposed to the world around us.

Not everything can be found on the internet, and we need to realize this.

Melanie Frasca

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