Social Media Is Broken. Here Are All The Reasons Why.
Users, researchers, policymakers, and others have identified a multitude of issues with the social media ecosystem. Examples include vast power that is held by a few corporations which hurts competition and innovation, the spread of false debates and news regarding the limits of free speech, the manner in which social media poses a threat to privacy, democracy, and election integrity. Finally, transparency and platform oversight.
A summit held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology brought together several experts to focus and discuss various solutions which range from the breakup of big companies and new oversight panels.
Social media serves to rewrite the central nervous system in real-time, and people exist at a crossroads between its perils and its promises. A new report explores the deep outlook of problems that are posed by existing models with up to 25 potential solutions to address them.
To begin with, false news often spreads very quickly online with the aid of social media algorithms designed to amplify incendiary and popular content. Advertisers and social media companies often benefit from this. One particular solution includes tackling the most prolific offenders.
Enforcement needs to focus on maximum impact. Furthermore, social media often poses what is known as a transparency paradox. Public and researchers have a right to know the manner by which social media platforms are using consumer data and accessing it. There is an additional need to protect security and privacy.
Algorithmic transparency lets researchers examine the information from peer-to-peer without sharing personal information, leading to a superior understanding of how to prevent malicious use. Many platforms have greater visibility than others. Data patterns are able to be reviewed on Twitter due to the fact that their data is public. Unfortunately, platforms like YouTube and Facebook don’t readily share their data and as such cannot be studied very well.
Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, spoke in agreement that independent oversight is needed for the fact that the platform is well beyond the debate of whether we need new rules of the road.
Clegg additionally noted that if other parts of the world regulated social media in a different manner, it could balkanize the internet. The European Union and the United States have been called to bring India to the forefront of this matter.
One of the most noticeable differences in the lives of young adults and current teenagers is that so much of their time is spent connecting to peers in person and more through connecting principally through social media.
Many experts observe the rise in depression as key evidence that connections social media users form electronically are less true to the heart and less emotionally satisfying. The less one is connected with human beings in an empathic, deep way, the less one observes the benefits of social interaction. If it is extremely superficial, people will feel less connected.
An exemption to this correlation includes girls who are high users of social media but keep a high level of social interaction. A study produced by Twenge demonstrated that girls who intensely interact offline as well as through social media fail to demonstrate an increase in depression than those who interact less often in person do.
Teenagers are not successful in connecting with their peers offline due to their geographical isolation or failure to find some sort of acceptance in their local communities and schools. For such children, they are saved through electronic connections.
An additional study, focusing on perceived isolation, analyzed a sample of young adults in the nation (between the ages of 19 and 32) demonstrating a correlation between the time that they spent on social media as well as their perceived social isolation. The authors claimed that directionality cannot be determined.
Do more intense users of social media develop the isolation factor? If so, it is due to the fact that the individual is spending less of their time on more authentic experiences than would be decreased with perceived isolation.
There is a great risk of what is commonly referred to as FOMO or the fear of missing out. According to Jerry Bubrick, FOMO is in reality the fear of failing to be connected to the social world and that requirement to feel connected often trumps the actuality of the situation.
The more social media is used, the less one thinks about becoming present in the moment.
Instead, one may find themselves occupied with worry with regards to why they were not invited to the party they observed photos of on Instagram and making sure that they do not miss a single post from a friend. If one is always playing catch up to endless updates, they are prioritizing social interactions in a way that makes them feel more isolated and as such fails to be emotionally rewarding.
Another theory with respect to the increase in depression includes the loss of self-esteem. This is particularly found in teenage girls when comparing themselves to artfully curated images of those who appear richer, prettier, more popular, and skinnier. So many girls are in fact bombarded with friends posting perfect pictures of themselves or following influencers and celebrities that undertake significant Photoshopping efforts.
Image-driven Instagram appears in surveys as a platform that most leads young individuals to report feeling worried, anxious, or depressed about their image. Curating a perfect image often makes others feel inadequate, it is unhealthy for those that appear more successful. Kids spend so much of their time on the platform attempting to post what they believe the world will think is the ultimate life.
Many of the ways by which social media impacts mood may be indirect. For instance, one of the greatest contributors to depression includes sleep deprivation which is exacerbated and caused by social media. Research demonstrates that up to 60 percent of adolescents are observing their phones in the final hour before their sleep and receive an average of an hour less than peers who do not use their phones before going to bed.
In order to not completely disconnect from a series of centralized platforms that do offer some positive value, there are many different steps that can be taken to ensure healthy use. First, ensure that people engage in healthy doses of social interaction offline and have time for the activities that help build self-confidence and identity.
App developers have become more aggressive than ever with their notifications to lure users to interrupt whatever they are doing to constantly engage with phones. These should be disabled. People should be encouraged to be honest with themselves about how much time spent on social media affects them emotionally and disengage from any and all activities that increase unhappiness or stress.
An example should be set by disengaging from media to spend more quality time with loved ones. A policy of no smartphones should be enforced after a specific time.
The competition represents a massive incentive for corporations to change their behavior. However, there is a great concentration in the social economy given the presence of Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Fordham Law School’s assistant professor of law, Zephyr Teachout, claimed that people are facing an array of issues that harm small businesses, stave off innovation, and harm advertisers. The European Union has considered implementing what is known as the Digital Markets Act which addresses anti-competitive practices and dictates corporate responsibility for non-complacency, proving to be a model for other areas.
Business models in social media do not always serve users. They are predicated on the attention economy by which users have their attention sold for advertising. What does get attention is not always good for society or users. The revision of business models away from the economy of attention help. Subscription-based models that are not tied to advertising represent an alternative. Unfortunately, there is a danger if fact-checked information is only available and reachable behind a paywall.
The Communications Decency Act stipulates in Section 230 that websites are provided immunity from third-party consent. They need to be reformed to make platforms more liable for content that is published. Federal regulations must incentivize platforms to assume responsibility for illegal content in the same way TIME magazine was.
Research manager of Stanford Internet Observatory, Renee Diresta, stated that policies must differentiate between free reach and free speech. This is due to the fact that the right to free speech does not extend to a right to have the speech amplified via algorithms. There has always been a division between the right to speak and the right to speak in a way that easily reaches the ears of hundreds of millions of people.
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