Is social media really for love and democracy?
“… The alleged ‘openness’ and ‘freedom’ of social networks are, as a matter of fact, neither open nor free. Instead, they are used by corporate and political agents to collect data from users, manage and manipulate the flow of information and influence voters and consumers.” (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14767430.2020.1805278?scroll=top&needAccess=true)
Both the US and Philippine elections have demonstrated how social media platforms can breed echo chambers and fake news to influence user behavior (thanks, Cambridge Analytica!). When Facebook and all other kinds of social media platforms began spreading in the early 2010s, the world felt hopeful. Social media can be a platform of interconnections and information exchange. It could democratize access and content creation for anyone who had internet.
But… What happened?
The research editorial I linked above provides some hints, and what stood out to me is the way social media is really and practically structured. Social media platforms make it easy to make impulsive reactions – a like, share, or retweet is just a click away. Facebook’s psychological experiments have been discovered and documented, and we have to be mindful of the forces that may subconsciously affect our thoughts, emotions, and actions.
This presents a problem, because the ideals of democracy or even just the framing of love as an authentic decision and action presumes a person’s agency for self-determination and authenticity. If we are not mindful nor aware of how our views may be manipulated, we become unconsciously inauthentic; and worse, love and democracy just become distant concepts subject to the whims of the powers that be.
In this world of instant gratification, impulses, and hedonism, perhaps the principle we need to practice is temperance or restraint.
Do not instantly react to the post because our intuitions can easily be toyed with.
Do not instantly share posts because our minds can fall into thinking and logic traps.
Actually read the longform versions, not just the snippets and comments of a popular post.
This means that if we really want social media to be for love and democracy, we should reject being spoonfed and reclaim our agency.
Or else, we’ll be destined to become trolls.
John 13:31-33a, 34-35. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another
[DAILY GOSPEL INSIGHTS AND REFLECTION FOR MANAGEMENT AND ORGANIZATION 135: MAY 15, 2022]