Culture of social media

I found myself thinking about our trust in online sources after our discussion today. All of us acknowledged the presence of fake news and expressed some trust issues regarding news sites, and I think that this is a reason that makes it very hard for important issues to get exposure online. It’s hard for people to get motivated about pretty important things because the presence of so much fake news makes it very hard to make a well-informed belief. Professor Smith mentioned that only after two hours would he be able to make a relatively well-informed opinion, and he is a genius.

I personally feel afraid of seeming ignorant online and facing the wrath of justice-seeking essay-commenters, so I often shy away from expressing any sort of opinion online–especially political. I feel like this fear of being judged online is a prevalent issue, and that’s one of the reasons why people are so much more interested, or, at least, aren’t as scared of expressing interest in more trivial things (like the smart refrigerators I referenced last post). If they make a mistake in a post about these subjects–not improbable with the mass of fake news everywhere, nobody is going to come after them in a malicious way. On the other hand, people get very triggered by politics and it is scary to express political beliefs without spending a long time making sure you know everything about every candidate’s political platform, family history, insurance company, dentist, etc. because someone will roast you for being politically ignorant or insensitive. At least that’s the sense that I got during the election–this crazy roasting culture online really polarized the web because everyone wanted to be affirmed in an echo chamber and people were too scared to have discourse with people of differing opinions.

I personally rarely use social media to express meaningful opinions. My posts are all very light-hearted and un-political, and most of the content on my feed is also this way. The click-bait articles about random things are very annoying but they seem to be more comfortable for people to associate with. This in turn encourages more fake news, because stories become exaggerated and shortened to become popular sites. The culture of social media is very interesting for me to think about and I would love to plan a final discussion on this topic. I follow a lot of younger kids on Instagram, and I’m seeing a whole new social caste system based on tags and the location of the tags on photos where none of the tagged people appear. It’s a completely new community that is constantly evolving.


  1. Mike Smith

    November 1, 2017 @ 10:50 pm


    This is very insightful, except for that part about Prof. Smith being a genius (he’s not, and his children remind him of that regularly). As you think about culture of social media, we are planning to talk a bit about one piece of that in our later discussion on “On-Line Communities, Anonymity, Identification and the Right to be Forgotten.” You might glance at some of the readings there as you think about what you might do. It’s a fascinating topic involving a lot of work from the social sciences.

  2. Jim Waldo

    November 4, 2017 @ 8:04 pm


    A thoughtful piece; thank you.

    I worry a lot about the fear of being wrong. It gets in the way of learning, and it certainly gets in the way of doing research. I think this is one of the biggest differences between the Silicon Valley/tech world and the world of policy– in the former, being wrong is considered a good thing (if you are being wrong in a new way), while in the policy world being wrong is a terrible thing that can end a career.

    Of course, this is different than being worried about trolls and the like, which is a fear I share. But I hope we can somehow move to a world where being wrong isn’t considered the end of the world, but rather a start of learning what might be right.

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