Social Media Decay and Pseudo-Communication
I was an early proponent of using social media to engage with people online. I have since become disillusioned with how heavily social media are used not for authentic online sharing but for targeted one-way advertising and for the unchecked spreading of lies and misinformation.
I'm NOT opposed to advertising. That's how I use my own website. I do think we've lost the potential benefits of social media for bringing people together. It's just so simple to target potential customers given availability of demographic and behavioral data. Besides, who can afford to actually engage with people online? Two cases in point:
- The current hubbub over "fake news." It's difficult to evaluate the snippets of facts that are spread throughout social media. My attitude is now to always question what I see on Twitter given how Twitter was used to spread lies during the recent US presidential campaign.
- The reduction in online commenting because of the expense involved in moderating comments. I'm seeing an increasing number of websites that have done away with commenting or which are restricting commenting only to those using Facebook (a social network I don't use). These same no-commenting websites are, however, happy to include Twitter and Facebook widgets so readers can share their content.
These are examples of what I call "social media decay." In our post-truth society it is no longer possible to trust anything we see online. Going to "trusted sources" is not always possible. At the same time I see no alternative to seeking out "trusted sources" to do an end run around social media decay.
The last thing we want is for the government to become politically involved in vetting what's true and what isn't; that can be a path to totalitarianism. At the same time, some authority must at minimum gather and report trustworthy facts about what is happening nationally to employment, to industry, to education, and to the health of our citizens. That's what the Federal government has done traditionally.
It will be interesting to see what the new Administration does with respect to the collection and publishing of the basic statistics we take for granted about changing social and economic circumstances.
While crowdsourcing and social media can be effective sales tools, I have my doubts about their effectiveness as objective tools for measuring progress on important social and economic concerns.
Copyright (c) 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald