”Social Media” and Information Literacy
Social Media has become exponentially popular due to the advancements in technology over the past decade. The internet is convenient enough to rest in a pocket. As a result people are communicating more than ever, constantly interacting by means of the invisible strings connected to their smartphones. Within seconds you can pull out your phone — thanks to the service provider linked to your smartphone — and call, text, or FaceTime (Apple exclusive) another user’s device. Armed with social media, not only can you contact your friends and family, you can observe there contact with the rest of the world.
Sixty-five percent of adults use social media (Perrin 2015). That statistic only rises the younger the individual. Widespread use of social media doesn’t necessarily have the effects one might hope for. One would think that social media would expose us to different opinions and that we would allow ourselves to benefit from differential opinions. Alan Martin, a writer for Wired, argues that social media has the opposite effect. On social media we are exposed to the content our friends and family create or share. These posts are created by people we care for and trust. It is the trust we have for our friends and family that allows the conditions for an echo-chamber effect. The echo chamber effect is the most notable problem with the exchange of information on social media. We create posts on our social media that we think our viewers will agree with. Alan Martin agrees, “If you surround yourself with voices that echo similar opinions to those you’re feeding out, they will be reinforced in your mind as mainstream” (Martin 2013) The problem with posting agreeable content is that our viewers are people who we know agree with us on a lot of topics already. This tendency on social media for us to have our opinions validated by people of similar views cements opinions, ideas, and statements we agree with into our memories. This effect is increasingly negative among active social media users who contribute to the echo chamber. Echo-chambers are dangerous for drowning out other valid perspectives that disagree with our own. More importantly echo chambers distract us from the real consensus of what the majority of people might be thinking. Martin also discusses the consequences of two echo chambers colliding and ultimately, “causing each party to retreat within their own personal echo chamber for reassurance.” (Martin 2013).
Social media is one of the main reasons Information literacy is so important today. In SI 110 we learned that being information literate means, possessing the ability to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the needed information. Social media is relevant to information literacy because being information literate is important when so much news is exchanged on informal platforms, with little to no peer-review. Martin encourages individuals to not contribute to the echo-chamber effect and to seek out contradictory perspectives.
Martin, Alan. “The Web’s ‘echo Chamber’ Leaves Us None the Wiser.” WIRED UK. N.p., 1 May 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.
Perrin, Andrew. “Social Media Usage: 2005–2015.” Pew Research Center Internet Science Tech RSS. N.p., 08 Oct. 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.