Essay 1

The digital space has allowed individuals from all walks of life to voice their opinions, thoughts, and concerns. The way that social media allows content from people of any background to be heard allows for individuals with little political power to have the chance to have a say in things. With things on social media being popularity based, this has made social media a bit of a democratic space. If what you do is popular and notable, this will allow you to be heard by more individuals through likes, shares, and comments. If your thoughts are more radical, you may still be heard however the effects may not be so beneficial. The creation of social media allows for dialogue, and that dialogue is what helps with the democracy of popularity.

Because social media increases accessibility, reduces the political red tape, and allows individuals to be heard, more than 53 percent of Americans use social media as a source for news. Amongst the people who use social media as their primary news source, the highest usage age group is the 18-29 age group. With the usage of digital media, traditional sources such as radio, print, or tv is on a downwards trend in terms of popularity due to availability, and lack of dialogue. Since news can be posted on a digital platform at anytime, this allows individuals to see information as soon as someone posts it. This digital platform also allows for individuals to comment, providing new points of view and an opportunity for conversation. This instant gratification and opinion of others can be an explanation of why individuals in the 18-29 age group like digital media to be their source of news. With this being the case, social media outlets must be careful with what they promote, their algorithms and how they chose to censor and ban individuals.

Since social media allows for free speech and anyone to post anything, it is extremely important to minority groups. With the help of social media, minority groups such as black Americans have been able to find an outlet and a voice in modern media. Fact tank has found that social media is a very important outlet for black Americans. Hashtags such as #blm have gained significant traction and is helping to stop prejudiced actions against black Americans. It has also brought to light the amount of injustice that is occurring and promoted activism amongst people in traditionally prejudiced groups. Since online social media allows individuals to give their two cents when it comes to any post, this further helps improve the traction of tending material. It improves the validity and shows the individual that they are not alone in these opinions. According to a study, 44% of black social media users used a hashtag within a month of the study when posting. This usage empowers other individuals to act when they see problems or actions which are considered injustice. The hashtags help to organize and strengthen arguments due to the sheer volume of people coming forward.

However, this does not mean that all Americans trust social media. Social media is a great tool for individuals to be heard. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that these posts are being fact checked or not being censored. According to a Pew Center Survey, three quarters of American adults believe that social media sites intentionally censor political viewpoints. American adults also believe that major tech companies are more likely to support liberal views. Lastly, Americans are still divided when it comes to sites labelling news on social media sites as inaccurate or misleading for fear of censorship and large corporations playing out their political agenda. Should these corporations label the news according to their rules and terms of use, these sites can quickly become like traditional forms of edited and reviewed media.

It is with this distrust and want of transparency, that 54 percent of Americans believe that social media companies shouldn’t allow any political ads. As social media serves as a source of empowerment and free speech, Americans believe that by allowing political advertisement across social media platforms will turn social media in to a political tool which will reduce the benefit and credibility of these sites. Social media companies have taken note and twitter has banned all sponsored content from political parties all together.

Social media companies need to be careful with their actions so that they do not lose the one thing that differentiates them from traditional media. They need to show their readers that they are not pushing a political agenda and that they are against censorship. If social media sites start to censor certain messages and parties, they will lose their competitive advantage and users may cease to use them. Digital content should be a democracy where popular posts, thoughts, and ideas are shared. The curation of digital content should be natural and should be up to the popular demand of the parties that use the social media sites. They should promote conversation between different individuals and encourage people to speak their mind. When corporations start to push political messages and content that users may not want to see, that is when usage starts to drop off and trust decreases.

Citations

Auxier, B. (2020, October 21). 54% of Americans say social media companies shouldn’t allow any political ads. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/09/24/54-of-americans-say-social-media-companies-shouldnt-allow-any-political-ads/

Shearer, E. (2021, January 12). 86% of Americans get news online from SMARTPHONE, computer or tablet. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/01/12/more-than-eight-in-ten-americans-get-news-from-digital-devices/

Auxier, B. (2020, December 14). Social media continue to be important political outlets for Black Americans. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/12/11/social-media-continue-to-be-important-political-outlets-for-black-americans/

Vogels, E., Perrin, A., & Anderson, M. (2020, September 18). Most Americans think social media sites censor political viewpoints. Retrieved February 23, 2021, from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/08/19/most-americans-think-social-media-sites-censor-political-viewpoints/

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