Tag Archive: Social Media

The filter bubble isn’t just Facebook’s fault – it’s yours

Following the shock results of Brexit and the Trump victory, a lot of attention has focused on the role that Facebook might have played in creating online political ghettos in which false news can easily spread. Facebook now has serious political influence thanks to its development from a social networking tool into a primary source of news and opinions. And for many, the way it manages this influence is in need of greater scrutiny. But to put the blame solely on the company is to overlook how people use the site, and how they themselves create a filter bubble effect through their actions.

Much of this debate has focused on the design of Facebook itself. The site’s personalisation algorithm, which is programmed to create a positive user experience, feeds people what they want. This creates what the CEO of viral content site Upworthy, Eli Pariser, calls “filter bubbles”, which supposedly shield users from views they disagree with. People are increasingly turning to Facebook for their news – 44 % of US adults now report getting news from the site – and fake news is not editorially weeded out. This means that misinformation can spread easily and quickly, hampering the chance people have for making informed decisions.

Over the last few weeks, there have been frequent calls for Facebook to address this issue. President Obama himself has weighed in on the issue, warning of the perils that rampant misinformation can have for the democratic process.

Much of the debate around this, however, has had an element of technological determinism to it, suggesting that users of Facebook are at the mercy of the algorithm. In fact, our research shows that the actions of users themselves are still a very important element in the way that Facebook gets used.

Our research has been looking specifically at how people’s actions create the context of the space in which they communicate. Just as important as the algorithm is how people use the site and shape it around their own communications. We’ve found that most users have an overwhelming view that Facebook is not ideally suited to political debate, and that posts and interactions should be kept trivial and light-hearted.

facebook-292989_1920

This isn’t to say that people don’t express political opinions on Facebook. But for many people there’s a reluctance to engage in discussion, and a sense that anything that might be contentious is better handled by face-to-face conversation. People report that they fear the online context will lead to misunderstandings because of the way that written communication lacks some of the non-linguistic cues of spoken communication, such as tone of voice and facial gestures.

There’s strong evidence in our research that people are actually exposed to a great deal of diversity through Facebook. This is because their network includes people from all parts of their life, a finding that echoes other research. In this respect, the algorithm doesn’t have a marked influence on the creation of filter bubbles. But because they often want to avoid conflict, people report ignoring or blocking posts, or even unfriending people, when confronted with views with which they strongly disagree.

They also report taking care of what they say themselves so as not to antagonise people such as family members or work colleagues whose views differ from theirs, but whose friendship they wish to maintain. And finally, they talk of making a particular effort to put forward a positive persona on social media, which again stops them from engaging in debate which might lead to argument.

Not so easy to fix

The idea that algorithms are responsible for filter bubbles suggests it should be easy to fix (by getting rid of the algorithms), which makes it an appealing explanation. But this perspective ignores the part played by users themselves, who effectively create their own filter bubbles by withdrawing from political discussions and hiding opinions they disagree with.

This isn’t done with the intention of sifting out diversity but is instead due to a complex mix of factors. These include the perceived purpose of Facebook, how users want to present themselves in an effectively public form, and how responsible they feel for the diverse ties that make up their online network.

The fact that manipulation by the algorithm isn’t the only issue here means that other solutions, for example raising people’s awareness of the possible consequences that their online actions have, can help encourage debate. We have to recognise that the impact of technology comes not just from the innovations themselves but also from how we use them, and that solutions have to come from us as well.

The Conversation

Philip Seargeant, Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics, The Open University and Caroline Tagg, Lecturer in Applied Linguistics and English Language, The Open University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why Do We Post? The Impact Of Social Media on Society

phone-958066_1920

Pixabay

There is a lot of information out there and most of it is on social media. People are making excellent use of it to create jobs, business opportunities or even  for marketing purposes to reach target audiences, build brands etc. On the fun side (or not), It can be hard to ignore some of the popular ‘Social Media Posting Trends’ such as  selfies, gifs, emojis, bite-sized videos, etc which  keep some of us guessing, wanting more or even get us a little angry angry!

But why do people post on social media? What are their motives?  And do people think of the possible consequences whenever they post on social media sites?

A recent study, “Why We Post” published by nine anthropologists,  led by Daniel Miller of University College, London  highlights  some interesting discoveries about why people post and how those messages are perceived across the world.

First of all, whenever many people talk about ‘social media’ these days, they tend to connect that  with information posted on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram,etc.  But what really is social media? And what counts as social media?  There are many definitions out there, but the anthroplogists define it as technology that affords ‘scalable sociality”. On their blog, they explain why they call it ‘scalable sociality and how it has scaled down from public broadcast.

Indeed social media has expanded over the last years and has allowed billions of users globally to make it  part of their lives. To get a broad picture, check out the following info graphic, the Conversation Prism  which was developed by Brian Solis a digital analyst and anthropologist. The graphic captures the state of social media and how important is in our  professional and consumers lives.

 

From their study, the in- depth analysis reveals how local populations in different countries behave and interact across social media and how these platforms and the content posted are impacting our daily lives. The participants, who worked independently for 15 months at locations in Brazil, Britain, Chile, China (one rural and one industrial site), India, Italy, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turkey, embedded themselves within families and their surrounding communities to successfully complete these tasks.

Their findings about the number  of social media users, indeed confirms  what most of us assume we already know-

Almost everyone we know uses social media!

 In fact, according to statistics by the year 2017,more than 2 billion or one in three people, will be using social media globally. And with all the technology advances and easy access to information there is no doubt that social media just keeps getting better and people love it!  As a matter of fact, as users continue to grow, the idea and possibility of posting on social media is helping  thousands of individuals and organisation to figure out ideal ways to create trends and develop best practices about what and how information should be shared online.

From their website, a number of  discoveries have been highlighted. Some of them are quite surprising facts and others are a confirmation about what most of us have been suspecting, known or assumed all this time.

For example-

Social Media and Education

It’s true, that a large number of youths including kids, spend a lot of their time on social media. So it’s no wonder that many of us are likely to hear parents and teacher talk about the negativity social media, associating it with destroying educational systems or contributing to poor perfomance in schools.

But that’s really not the case- The study revealed quite the opposite!

Infact,Social media does not detract from education – it is education‘.

Of course that depends on how you choose to look at the use of social media in relations to education.  In poor economies for example,  most children with limited access to formal schooling turn to YouTube videos as an important source of education.  This is also the case with industrial workers or job seekers who with little or no formal education also turn to social media to sharpen career skills.

Use of Memes

Another interesting discovery was the use of memes!

They are the ‘moral police of online life’.

 I agree that not only are they humourous (at times), but they also they promote values. I remember that “Be like Bill” 0nline stick figure that was notoriously all over facebook. What’s more interesting is the fact that people have taken memes seriously  and are now using it as a voice to express their complex feelings or make comment about certain issues within their communities. One interesting example i came across on the web was the Spoilt Modern Indian Woman, where memes  are not only hilarious but also calling out sexism and highlight misogyny in Indian society.

 

Indian Woman.png

Facebook.com/spoiltmodernwoman

 

Gender relations using fake accounts

This discovery left me quite amazed. Using fake accounts can go two ways. Either positively or negatively. With all the discrimination many face today, people have their own reasons to use fake profiles or just stay anonymous. For example, in some communities, especially in countries like China and Turkey, their results show that using  fake profiles accounts can infact help boost a career, foster business and community relationships . On a more personal level, a fake account can be more useful especially in some communites, such as Chile, where hiding sexual preferences or orientation  might be the case because not every is bold enough to ‘come out of the closet‘.

Their study also highlighted the importance of romance on facebook and how people want to express their love. Other than that, we also know that nowadays, people are finding love on social media.

However, my greatest concern concerning the issue of fake profiles has been safety! it gets’s scary if you or someone you know has been a victim of ‘Catfish’. People are now turning social media into a home of crimes. Catfishing is an epidemic no doubt about that!  Personally, i’ve seen people (actually fraudsters), using fake profiles to ask for money or lie about love or even make friends with the intention of turning that into into a love affair, or even commit God knows what kinds of crime!-If you have watched those Catfish episodes, then you definitely know something is seriously wrong with some people. The basic formular is always the same- Upload a photo, (if need be a  fake hot photos ) and you can catfish people.

Read all about the discoveries here.

Since their launch on the 29th February, the first three open access books  in the Why We Post series have been  downloaded over 6,000 times.