Social media spread Fake News and contribute to social issues such as a lower self-esteem among its young population of users. Why?
Freedom of expression is a right everyone should have and exercise. It’s especially true as it is a bedrock of American democracy, as defined in the first amendment of the constitution. The spread of internet certainly comes with a lot of benefits such as unlimited access to information and unparalleled communication options (when it’s not censored). The mix of the two has given birth to a monster called social media. Social media is just a hype terminology to describe a content sharing platform with free access. Because it’s “free” to use, their success is humongous and they count billions of users around the world.
Greatly because it’s “free” to use, social media have taken a special place in our society, so much so that 32 percent of people using internet as their main source of information said they relied on social media during 2016 elections1. A distinction must be drawn between personal posts, which are best left largely unfettered, and the news feed posts that can quickly go viral, accelerated by algorithms that respond to user engagement. There is serious abuse when the content is false2, aka Fake News. Fake news is dangerous mischief and takes advantage of the fact that social media generally rely on rapid-fire algorithms and not deliberate human editing3.
Because of this over confidence in social media, an election-gate is currently on-going for Facebook. Several investigation are currently conducted about a possible Russian interference in 2016 U.S. election in order to increase political instability in the United States and to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign4. Even if these accusations prove to be wrong, there is a serious concern about reliability of social media to get information.
I personally never trusted social media since I am well aware that the content creators are just like me: non-professionals. Thus, I was astonished to realize how young people can be stupid, to the extent of actually relying on social media to make an educated guess at which candidate to vote for in a presidential election. Nothing can be done to improve this issue. Whether it’s the government, third parties, or Facebook governance itself, who are we to decide what’s right or wrong to say? Who are we to decide what’s fake news? Ethical and moral censorship is just censorship. Once you start censoring ideas based on relative views and biased ideas, you are one step closer to China’s or North Korea’s population control. The problem is, always has been and always will be education.
Another big problem of today’s social media use is a lower self-esteem recorded among young people who use them on a daily basis. The relationship between body dissatisfaction and social media in adolescents is especially true for young women. Teenage girls use image-based social media platforms more frequently than their male counterparts: 61% of girls use Instagram versus 44% of boys.
A study by Becker and colleagues (2011) suggests that social networks played an important role in the relationship between media and eating pathology, which may extend to body dissatisfaction5. There is a link between constantly viewing images of thin bodies and personal body dissatisfaction6. If viewing bodies that seem better looking than ours wasn’t enough, there are other tricks to increase the gap! Using applications and other editing devices, such as Photoshop, to alter selfies is nothing new for many teens and women7. Thanks to an array of free applications, people can alter the way their bodies look in photos with a swipe or a click.
By posting only fake and altered images of themselves, social media users create a fake reality in which the younger users tend to believe. This results in anxiety: young women always looking at other better looking women tend to think “I wish I looked like that” or “I should get more in shape”.
There is a strong relationship between social media and body dissatisfaction. Over exposure to thin and toned bodies induces a will to comparing ourselves to it, and then feeling bad about our own body is just one step away8.
Solving this issue is easier said than done. Social media spreading fake, enhanced, objectified body pictures of women is uncontrollable. Social media is not considered a drug yet, and therefore its use is uncontrolled. Yet it produces addiction9 and alteration of the mind, i.e. a lower self-esteem10. I would personally say it’s an education problem. If parents are not aware of that, don’t tell their children, or cannot create a trust relationship with their children so they would listen to them, nothing can stop the young population exposed to these fakes from developing a lower self-esteem.