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Disinformation manipulates social media users

Cambridge Analytica scandal exposes social media toxicity.  |  Photo Courtesy of cnbc.com

 

The term “compassion fatigue”—used by journalists to describe the public’s gradual desensitization and apathy to news of war in the electronic age can also be used to describe the behavior people exhibit when they hear another news story about the latest online privacy violation. Most social media users do not seem concerned about their online privacy and how social media companies use their online information in a universe of electronic data. The watershed event that is the Cambridge Analytica scandal should not only have made people aware of the deep and manipulative alt-right machinations on Facebook, but should have cultivated a global conversation on the moral usage of social media at large. The fact that this did not happen should concern us.

Revelations from the Cambridge Analytica scandal has exposed two major issues regarding social media today. First, the fact that Facebook allowed a shady tech firm to access the data of millions of profiles and personal data is a blatant violation of online privacy and personal information. The second problem is significantly more complex and unusual in nature. Cambridge Analytica—a tech firm established to harvest online information—had a relationship with alt-right medial mogul Stephen Bannon and the Trump campaign. Both issues are incredibly confusing in nature and it is safe to say that one needs hours of personal research in order to grasp a basic understanding of it.

Staff writer Alexis Madrigal writes how Facebook and social media platforms radically altered the way the American people understand and interact with political institutions.

“The information underpinnings of democracy have eroded, and no one has explained how,” Madrigal states.  

While it is difficult to wholly explain the Cambridge Analytica scandal or any other scandal regarding online privacy, it is important for social media users to take a step back and think about their relationship with social media in general. Journalist Neal Gabler writes on how social media has not only changed the way users receive information but also the way users interact with other humans. According to Gabler, social media has resulted in alienation, apathy, aggression, solipsism, unhappiness, disinformation and tribalism. Our generation of social media users not only fail to understand and care about the changing face of social media but have also been victims to its addictive and toxic ways.

To relegate social media as a mere recreational activity for younger generations is to dismiss its function as a vehicle for self-expression and identity. Facebook and Instagram are fun platforms to interact with like-minded people, however, we should not forget the harm they have and continue to cause people. Social media has radically altered the way individuals interact with others and this is frightening. People’s political orientation, artistic expression, relationships and even emotional wellbeing have been compromised by companies and entities dedicated to political manipulation and surveillance capitalism.

The age of simple face-to-face communication has been altered by social media usage. It is time for our generation to take a step back and reevaluate our precipitous relationship with the electronic era.

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