The Tyranny of Social Media

An incubator for socio-political echo chambers

With the exception of the air we breathe, everything we are wearing, holding, consuming, or using, is marketed on social media — even your perception of your surroundings. In our attempt to connect with the world using social media, we forget to connect within and to our community. While the role of social media is undeniable in revolutionizing the communication platform, making it more accessible, faster, and easy to use; the price we are paying for those comforts extends far beyond its said purpose.

Social media has become almost an intrinsic part of life amongst millennials. According to Pew Research Center, nearly over 90% of young adults in the U.S, ranging from 18 to 29, use social media without notable differences in racial and ethnic backgrounds. As of 2018, Facebook reported 2.27 billion monthly active users, making it the most widely used social network worldwide. If Facebook were a country, it would be the second most populated nation in the world.

If Facebook were a country, it would be the second most populated nation in the world.

Social media use complex algorithms to psychologically entice its users to consume tailored information based on their online behavior, making it incredibly vulnerable to exploitation. A review of the psychological literature shows that people addicted to using social media sites experience symptoms similar to those who suffer from addictions to substances.

The revelation of more than 3,000 advertisements on Facebook linked to Russia between June 2015 and May 2017, is merely a tip of an iceberg about our 21st-century crisis in the making. There are thousands of entities with deep pockets lurking on social media sites who want to change the way you think about who you are, who your allies are, and who your enemies are.

Not only does it harm the mental well-being of a person, but it also erodes the health of democracy in a country.

Not only does it harm the mental well-being of a person, but it also erodes the health of democracy in a country.

In addition, according to the World Bank and the World Tourism Organization, Americans on a per capita basis goes overseas only 0.2 a year in comparison to 11.4 international trips a year for Hong Kong residents. Less than half of U.S citizen hold passports, mainly due to a lack of paid vacation. When we have never traveled abroad or gone beyond our social circles, through no fault of our own, it’s easier to demonize “others” who look, speak, eat, worship different than us. Such an environment can be a breeding ground to bend the truth to appeal to the voters, and social media like a wild fire, facilitates the resurgence of hostility to immigration, anti-Islamic rhetoric and emboldens white supremacy.

With that said, it’s easy to bask in cynicism, but each one of us has the power of will, of heart and of mind to not give in. The heart to look through the lens of radical empathy and compassion at our differences. To remind ourselves that the social justice issues in rural Mississippi are as critical and valid as the one in urban areas like New York City.

Our opinions are formed by the assumptions, our relationships, and interactions with the exterior world. No social media site can dictate whose life experiences are correct or more worthy over another. In the absence of a safe space for an intellectual conversation about our political beliefs, we run the risk of stunting the growth– both heart and mind, and eventually our democracy.

Meaningful social policies are often the result of hearing out each other, not from a tit-for-tat approach. Our social attitude will manifest in social policies. Democracy works when a majority makes an informed decision every day, but when the majority is entrapped in the echo chambers of social media, it incubates intolerance towards anybody who is different from us.

Democracy works when a majority makes an informed decision every day, but when the majority is entrapped in the echo chambers of social media, it incubates intolerance towards anybody who is different from us

Let’s do what we can, and we all can do a lot. A lot! All it takes is the powerful will of radical empathy, and open mindness. It’s about making a deliberate and conscious choice to overcome the tyranny of social media, an incubator for political, and social intolerance.

Policy Analyst — Health Informatics. Opinions are mine, not employer’s.

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