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Letter to the Editor, Nov. 28, 2020: Social media can have serious negative impact

Letter to the Editor, Nov. 28, 2020: Social media can have serious negative impact

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Social media can have

serious negative impact

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

A 2020 Netflix documentary-drama, “The Social Dilemma,” offers a lens to view the rise of social media platforms and their impact — both positive and negative — on society.

Although it has produced many positive societal changes, social media's negative impact — particularly on politics and its role in allowing the dissemination of conspiracy theories and fake news — can be significant with far-reaching consequences.

Social media platforms use manipulation techniques to addict users, and their actions subsequently are tracked to increase user attention and engagement. Algorithms are used to enhance the user experience on an individual basis. This leads to the creation of individual interest profiles and then matching users to other content.

Media development uses a practice that reinforces behavior to retain user attention for a longer period of time and causes them to check their devices more often.

False information spreads at a rate six times faster than true information, due to emotional reaction. And, algorithms tend to be biased toward false information, since higher interest results in recommendations to more and more people.

Unchecked, social media platforms can contribute to the deterioration of societal trust and cause serious damage to democracy and its institutions.

In 1930 — long before the existence of the internet and social media platforms — Germany was a liberal democracy. Four years later, the democracy was dead. Political plotting, miscalculations and personal ambitions can be dangerous — even more so in today’s information age with social media platforms.

We are living in unprecedented, perilous times that demand our attention and action to protect democracy. What will you do?

Charles Huffstetler.



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