While social media existed in various less successful and narrow forms in the 1990s, it only saw its big breakthrough in the 2000s. This year, it is estimated 3.96 billion social media users global.
Elliot Panek, an associate professor of journalism and creative media specializing in social media, said researchers refer to social media platforms as “mass personal”.
“It’s basically a user posting something on a platform, and the audience for that can be one person or a billion people, and you don’t really know who the audience is,” Panek said.
Panek said he believes mass personal communication is one of the main issues driving social media hostility.
“If the audience is a bit more limited and it feels more like small group communication, there seems to be fewer issues,” Panek said. “People get to know each other and feel responsible to some degree and empathize with others even if they’re not in the same room.”
Greg Vander Wal, executive director of the UA Counseling Center, said social media interactions harbor a disconnect.
“Any kind of bullying or exclusion can be a real problem,” Vander Wal said. “I think it’s a lot easier to engage in some of this destructive and harmful behavior when you’re just typing or interacting between a social media site than you would in person with someone.”
According to a 2021 Anti-Defamation League Poll41% of Americans who responded said they had experienced online harassment.
Hannah King, a sophomore in speech-language pathology, said she doesn’t believe the benefits of social media outweigh the harassment or communication issues.
“I think it’s a positive thing because it’s a way for us to keep in touch with people in general, but I also have the opinion that it can be a negative thing because things can be swayed in one direction. different or you may have communication problems,” King said. “People often make fun of people. People are mean on social media.
Some critics point the finger at Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook and the other tech giants. In a 2021 NPR interviewYael Eisenstat, the former head of election integrity operations at Facebook, spoke about concerns about his time working at Facebook.
Eisenstat said he noticed the lack of moderation when it came to political ads, and when paired with the algorithm, it created the “perfect storm.”
When she suggested changes to the platform, such as vetting political ads, she said she was cold.
“I was pushed out for these kinds of ideas. … There was just no appetite from the leadership for it,” Eisenstat said.
An internal Facebook report discovered that the company had helped instigate the Capitol Riot.
Panek said that in small online communities, hostility is less due to an understood mutual responsibility; however, as a community grows, toxicity ensues.
“I would say it’s more of a tool that can be used for good or bad,” Panek said. “I don’t think they are inherently good or bad. It depends a lot on who uses it, how they use it, and why they use it, but also on the design of the particular platform we’re talking about.
King said she found herself in cycles of overusing social media, that she didn’t believe it was a problem, nor did she believe that interpersonal relationships were in danger of being replaced by the social media.
She said social media did not interfere with her personal life, but she was alarmed by notifications warning her of her social media use and tried to change her habits accordingly.
Vander Wal said an individual’s usage dictates the experience.
“As with any tool, or anything we spend our time on, it has the potential to be really good and bring a lot of positives, but it also has the potential to be overused and be misused,” Vander Wal said. . “If we find a proper place for social media in our lives as we continue to work toward our goals and values, I think that can be a positive thing, and part of that just means being intentional.”
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