It is evident to say that social media is a place of endless content, information, and opinion. Not only are social media platforms like TikTok places to consume entertaining and inspiring content, they are also used as search engines and as one of our top news sources. With that, social media has created an increase in misinformation being spread about certain topics surrounding things like COVID-19 and the US election, and therefore shifts public opinion in a negative way sometimes. The amount of content being posted and circulated on social media creates uncertainty about the information discussed about a major issue or topic.
4.74 billion people use social media in 2022, and just being a user of social media, you can create and share whatever information and content you want to (“Global Social Media Statistics,” n.d.). Everyone wants to be on social media nowadays because it allows you to “build networks of people and information” (Boyd, 2014, para.5) and moreover it influences people’s behaviour due to what they “see in the publics” (para.5). Due to the amount of social media users, networks that have been cultivated, and information being created and shared, there is an overwhelming amount of content on social media nowadays. There is an overload and oversaturation of content on social media. Although social media is also a very positive space, where anyone has the ability to participate in movements and cultivate their own digital gardens through expressing themselves, it’s also a space where it can be difficult to navigate between credible sources, countless different opinions, and misinformation about a topic or issue (Basu, 2020). With COVID-19 vaccinations for example, there was an overwhelming amount of content and information being circulated including ‘fake news’, which shaped a lot of people’s decisions and stance on whether or not they wanted the vaccine. Everyone on social media having the power to post anything is both a blessing and a curse at the end of the day.
As a social media user consuming content daily and wanting to learn more about current events online, how can you decipher between ‘fake news’ and credible trustworthy information and sources? The truth is it has become really hard to due to the amount of content being published on social media. When it comes to important events like the US election for instance, where we saw a lot of ‘fake news’ being published in order to sway the public, being digitally literate has become increasingly important. You never know who is posting what nowadays and we need to be more cautious than ever before. During the US election, there were bots posting ‘fake news’ to Twitter on behalf of Trump with the goal to gain political power and dominance (Mosendz, 2017). Digital literacy allows us to be able to “look at any resource and ascertain its usefulness to a task” (Caulfield, 2016, para.4) and have more confidence in knowing which sources to trust. Moreover, as the younger generations are growing up using social media, it is essential for them to have digital literacy and understand ‘fake news’ between credible information.
The act of posting on social media also illustrates the power relations that exist online. Celebrities and influencers hold more power online than the general public does, and therefore what they post and say is more influential and persuasive. We tend to glorify what celebrities and influencers share on social media, and we also trust what they post automatically without looking deeper or giving it a second thought sometimes. Marwick & Lewis (2017) highlights that influencers and celebrities have a district role in media manipulation, as they hold the power to amplify messages as well as shift public opinion. This can make a positive impact on the public if they are emphasizing meaningful movements and beliefs, but at the same time they may “contribute to decreased trust of mainstream media” and cause “increased misinformation” (Marwick & Lewis, 2017, p.1). As social media users, we need to take information from anyone with a grain of salt.
While social media has given us the opportunity to create whatever we want at our own means, it has also led to an increase of misinformation when discussions around major events and issues are prevalent. With that, distinguishing ‘fake news’ or information between reliable information has become very challenging to say the least. Social media users that hold more power than others should work to support reliable and credible claims about an issue and perpetuate information that the public can trust and be positively impacted by. As social media users that consume content every day, our job is to continuously make efforts to educate ourselves and be aware of the potential misinformation and ‘fake news’ being spread about an important issue.
Basu, T. (2020, September 3). Digital Gardens let you cultivate your own little bit of the internet. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/09/03/1007716/digital-gardens-let-you-cultivate-your-own-little-bit-of-the-internet/
Boyd, D. (2014). Searching for a public of their own. Wattpad. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.wattpad.com/203798155-it%27s-complicated-8-searching-for-a-public-of-their
Caulfield, M. (2016, December 22). Yes, Digital Literacy. but which one? Hapgood. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://hapgood.us/2016/12/19/yes-digital-literacy-but-which-one/
Global Social Media Statistics – DataReportal – global digital insights. DataReportal. (n.d.). Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://datareportal.com/social-media-users
Marwick, A., & Lewis, R. (2017). Media manipulation and disinformation online. Datasociety.net. Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://www.posiel.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Media-Manipulation-and-Disinformation-Online-1.pdf
Mosendz, P. (2017). The 7 types of people who tweet at trump. Bloomberg.com. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2017-who-replies-to-trumps-tweets/