Updated: Dec 9, 2020
As the 2020 election passes, one cannot leave the intense political discussions of this year in the past. Social media, a growing factor in our lives, can be considered a major aspect of this polarization. How? It's manipulating tactics which caters and preys on the insecurities and the faults in us.
According to a study from the Pew Research Center, American politics are more polarized than ever. In the study, political polarization in the 1990s is compared to that of today. The difference is outstanding, as around 60% of people in each party are on the far end of the political spectrum, although in 2014, almost 90-94% of people in each party were radicalized. The new factor? Social media, of course.
As stated before, social media uses manipulative tactics in order to cater to its audience. Sites such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok have handcrafted user interfaces that give the app a constantly fresh feel. These apps also track user interactions and focus in order to show users content that will make them want to interact more, and as a result stay longer on the site. This can have negative connotations though, as algorithms may promote political platforms and false information.
People are also starting to realize social media’s influence in their political lives. According to Ernesto Fernandez, a small business owner in Miami, social media has affected his own life. “[Social media] has definitely changed my perspective on politics,” said Fernandez. Fernandez also realized how politicians are using social media to spread their views, as people tend to believe a lot of what they see. His theory can also be confirmed as political ads on social media sites can show to a select group of people.
In my independent research, I have also realized how younger people tend to believe what they see on social media more. Such as Sanje Lara, a student at St. Thomas University, who claimed that she believes in what she sees, but that she often fact checks and incorporates her own ideas into what she sees and reads.
In other topics, social media also preys on mentally unstable youth. In a study, middle and high school students with social media accounts tended to have more intrusive thoughts, and would also tend to suffer from depression or anxiety disorders. This mostly stems from the fact that people can anonymously bully others on the internet with no repercussions.
As social media grows day by day, and with almost 2 billion users on the planet, people need to question whether what they see on social media is true, false, or opinionated. With rising tensions in the U.S., the fate of democracy lies in your hands, or more specifically, the palm of it.