Is social media a social roadblock?

Naomi Hancock, Opinion Editor

“In case you missed it…” the blue Twitter banner shoots into view at the top of your phone.

Social media platforms like Twitter recommend personalized content they know we’ll enjoy. While this cycle of information satisfies our need for constant entertainment, the algorithm traps us in an echo chamber of content exclusive to our interests and like-minded peers. 

This lack of diversity presents an issue of close-mindedness in the masses. Take Parler, a social networking platform that hosts a large number of Donald Trump supporters, among conspiracy theorists and far-right extremists. Platforms like Parler use an algorithm that continuously refers information to their users based on previous interactions and trending posts. And while algorithms are essential to the “social media experience,” there are issues that go unacknowledged.

Twitter, among other popular apps, share this same problem, but it’s amplified given the sheer number of users Twitter hosts. Misinformation concerning politics and news is extremely prevalent, and even played a role in the 2016 presidential election, where then-candidate Donald Trump and his followers heavily utilized the app for campaigning. But their lies reached a significant amount of users, ensuring Trump’s win through a poorly-informed base of American voters. 

The harm beyond the basic lack of integrity comes from the self-inflicted social bubble we find ourselves in. Tailored feeds lead to a frenzy of misinformation, something made worse when your primary source of news comes from social media pages, especially when you take this misinformation as gospel. 

But the problems with social media are not exclusive to right-wing politics. Apps like Instagram have become increasingly popular for spreading messages related to political and social change. Liberal movements have seen a resurgence in support and allyship, partly thanks to the awareness that apps like Instagram provide. 

Right-leaning people and conservative voters tend to see these liberal posts and movements as “extreme,” though these negative perceptions often stem from misunderstanding. Terms like “all cops are bastards” have been heavily misinterpreted, primarily through the initially negative connotation found at face-value through the word “bastard.” And while the cause behind these liberal movements is more often than not good-natured, the wording alienates audiences, especially the politicians whose support we need the most.

More specifically, despite what a politician’s individual belief might be, their hesitance to back an “extreme liberal movement” reflects in the staticness of our country. Consequently, we set ourselves back, trapping ourselves in a system of change where the needle moves every forty to fifty years. 

Thus, it’s essential that the messages we convey on social media are honest, but also careful in the content it contains. Knowing at what pace and extremity to enforce change is essential, as the threat of closing too many doors is a possibility. Change is only achievable through collaboration, and collaboration can only be reached through compromise and the willingness to listen