I’m not afraid of social media. A lot of people my age seemed to be neck-deep in Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever other outlets allow them to connect to their friends in whatever way possible. I’m not like that; I have a small internet presence, and for right now, that suits me just fine. But I’m not afraid of what social media might do to all the young souls of the world.
You see, what social media is supposed to do is connect people so that it’s easier than ever to hold a conversation, share interests, and get to know people. I admit I’m no researcher, and I don’t want to make a causation where one does not exist, but the presence of social media and the apparent open-mindedness of the younger generations seems to be, at the very least, connected. Obviously, that’s a very good thing.
So, then. What are my concerns?
Social media platforms are a business. If people have a negative experience on a particular platform, then the business will suffer. That’s why platforms like Pinterest will say “Here are some pins you may like” or Twitter might say “Who to follow” based off of your current follower list. They want you to enjoy your experience.
And nothing makes an experience less enjoyable than coming across something political you heartily disagree with.
I know some people use social media just for face-value. They Instagram their Starbucks drinks or Pin interesting outfits or recipes or whatever. It’s an aesthetic thing, an outlet for art, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, social media has become a thing from which any person might find their voices heard. People like me are using social media platforms to consider, or at least to encounter in passing, controversial information because it feels a little bit more manageable to view it on social media than it does to go research it via the vast expanse of voices from blogs and websites that, more often than not, don’t really know what they’re talking about.
Pinterest is my platform of choice for such discussions. It’s not like I went out and searched for them myself; their algorithms just happened to throw a Pin my way that I happened to like, and then it built itself up from there. A lot of them are screenshotted from Tumblr, which is fine by me, because I tried Tumblr awhile ago and found it not quite my style, but I like the conversations that some of the users are having there. So quite often, as I’m scrolling through my Pinterest feed, I’ll come across something about abortion or women’s rights or police brutality…. things that I have feelings about but have not yet been capable of expressing properly, and they’ll be written right out there for me, ready to be added to the arsenal of arguments I’m probably never going to have.
It’s really nice to have words to fit a thought that you’ve been dancing around for quite some time. It’s a pleasant experience, so of course you save it or retweet it or whatever it is you do on your platform of choice. The algorithm recognizes, through whatever magic powers that it has, that you interact the most with pins that focus on particular political views, and then, to increase user experience, those are the only political pins you’ll view.
It seems like a perfect system at face value, right? You only see things that you agree with, so you never get angry at a computer screen. Well, we finally approach my point. It’s not a perfect system. You’re only getting one side of the story, finding arguments that back up your side without getting introduced to opposing arguments. To understand an issue, it is not enough to just follow one perspective blindly. You have to listen to it all, to get the most in-depth visual that you can, so that you might have an educated opinion on what is right and what is wrong.
So I guess all I can say is, as you peruse your social media platform, remember that it’s tailored to show you what you want to see. The best you can do is keep an open mind and remember that what you see on your social media dashboard is almost never the whole story.