Is Social Media to Blame for Our Post-truth World?
Post-truth, the idea that subjective facts can prove to be more influential than objective facts in shaping opinion, has been heightened greatly by social media. Social media has positively impacted society through making available a vast amount of information quickly and easily. However, it has also allowed for easy access to non-credible and one-sided pieces of information that can be privately consumed but also shared easily. Social media fosters an environment in which post-truth can be difficult to impede.
With very liberal regulation surrounding the world wide web, access to false information is effortless and often not obvious. Anyone has the option to publish almost any type of information. Further, this information does not have to be credible. Social media consumers are often not aware nor care where their information is coming from, especially if the information is being consumed for non educational or professional reasons. In turn, this puts potentially dishonest information in the same pool as traditional platforms, which was much more difficult in past decades when popular forms of media such as TV and radio were strongly regulated. Thus, shaping opinion through false or biased information is much easier today.
Social media also allows for the convenience and ease of viewing and selecting data specific to the consumer. With the click of a button, the most detailed information surrounding a simple search can be accessed. Further, this information can be very specific to the search conducted, in so that challenging or opposing information could potentially never be presented alongside the information searched for. With the growing availability of subjective data on the internet as mentioned above, the consumer has the option to select and surround themselves with information that pleases them emotionally rather than exposing themselves to conflicting data. This allows the consumer to develop potentially false conclusions about issues as they are not forced to seek credible or conflicting information.
Moreover, consumers’ viewpoints can be easily shared and enforced through social media. While reality often forces contact with challenging information or viewpoints, the media can be curated to create a world for the consumer in which their personal opinions can be reinforced through the easy availability of similar viewpoints, also known as the filter bubble or echo chambers. Social media can create a world without rebuttal for a consumer, in which whether true or false, their viewpoint can remain intact and without question.
Therefore, social media has allowed for a post-truth society to foster and flourish. Easy access to false information, the convenience of seeking this information, and the ability to curate a world in which this information is reinforced for the consumer allows for subjective information to trump objective facts. Further, reduced regulation surrounding the internet and social media reflects why the idea of post-truth could not prosper prior to the internet, when traditional media mediums were controlled regarding who and what information could be released. While seeking information that is emotionally pleasing engages a consumer, it is up to the consumer to stay conscious when seeking and verifying information found through social media in coming to conclusions regarding opinion and viewpoints.