The most frightening thought I took from the Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma”, is not the addictive nature of social media.
It’s not the awesome power of the intellect and science that has been employed to ensure each platform has the power to grab our attention on a daily and hourly basis.
It’s not the problems we are inevitably going to experience with the exposure of children at such an early age to smartphones and tablet devices.
No. The most frightening thing is the ability of social media platforms to allow each person to occupy their own world, with their own facts.
Remember if everybody possesses their own facts, and there is no common ground or accepted footing for debate and discussion, nobody can be persuaded to change their mind and come to agreement with the enemy, the other side.
And remember when you log into your Facebook or Twitter account you are being treated to a unique version of each platform. Because you have chosen what you want in your feed, who to follow, and so on.
And let’s face it: only a sliver of the population will follow someone on Twitter with whom they are in direct disagreement. And then almost certainly to monitor the activity of the ‘other side’ rather than adopt an open mind with a view to changing it or genuinely seeing the other’s world view.
I had personal experience of this phenomenon of ‘alternative facts’, and the view that each person can have their own facts which they believe can be equally true or well established. It was on my YouTube channel where the existence of the coronavirus pandemic was denied by a commenter on one of my YouTube videos.
This guy was convinced, on account of finding some so called expert online, that the coronavirus was a hoax, an attempt by ‘them’ (whoever that might be), to control ‘us’ (whoever that might be). In other words any attempt to persuade this guy to wear a mask to prevent the spread of covid 19 was bound to fail on account of his belief that there was no coronavirus and the facts being broadcast by the establishment-RTE, for example-were wrong and could be opposed by anyone with a different set of facts.
This alternative world, with its alternative facts, is the biggest consequence of the social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc.
Remember that you can publish virtually anything, any farfetched conspiracy theory or idea, on any of these platforms. It is difficult to have posts or videos deleted, regardless of how far removed they are from what we broadly accept as reality.
What’s the solution? There will have to be greater regulation and control over these platforms on account of their power to foment hatred and division, which is assisted by groups arriving at their own ‘facts’.
Can we agree that the earth is round?