We live in a world that is built off of complex and multifaceted relationships. With the introduction of the internet in the 1990s, human society, which was completely physical until then, permeated into the digital sphere. Now, a lot of us have digital relationships with friends and families, and para-social connections with influencers and celebrities.
With over four billion social media users across platforms (that is over half the total human population) we need to ask what the role of social media is in our lives. Is it an extension of our society? Or is it a gateway into a different one, one that mimics our preexisting views?
Social media does not prioritise you
Social media is foremost a business. A very lucrative one at that. These multi-billion dollar businesses profit off of curated advertisements shown to us through an often invasive analysis of our interests across media platforms.
Of course, the advent of social media had the unintentional side effect of connecting communities across continents. However, we often forget that these businesses did not set out to connect the world or enable positive and wholesome mass communication for us. They set out to make money, and make money they do. Meta, the largest social media conglomerate owning the likes of Meta, WhatsApp and Instagram made close to 118 Million USD in gross revenue last year. Clearly, their priorities lie elsewhere.
We have several real-world examples of how social media exacerbates extremist views. Events like the capitol insurrection and growing right-wing extremism in Ireland are often facilitated through social media platforms. Research proves without doubt that social media affects our perceptions, preferences and attitudes.
It is what you make of it
The goal of these businesses is to make you stay and keep wanting more, and they are willing to do anything it takes to get you to do that. However, once you understand how the medium works, you can manipulate it to work for you.
Connecting with family and friends, growing a brand, learning about your favourite topics and meeting people with similar interests, they are all possible using social media. Once you figure out your intention, just follow those pages, click on only what you want to see and in a few days, your ‘for you’ page will be curated to fan the flames of your newest hobbies.