Black Lives Matter: Social Media's Effects on the Worl Through the Political Lens

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Media causes important issues that spread rapidly and around the world. According to, R. Kelly Garrett, Professor of Communication at Ohio State University, in 2016, Americans used Facebook more than any other big news sites such as Fox, CNN and even major national newspapers (Plos.org). However, Joanna M. Burkhardt, professor of literacy and comprehension at the University of Rhode Island, adds to R. Kelly Garrett by stating that it is creating fake news. “In order to defend oneself from this type of news it is necessary to distinguish the true from the false, and that the news can be manipulated Another huge factor is that these social media sites can filter out certain viewpoints, and essentially manipulate the system to fit certain needs and perspectives.This is troubling as online social networks have frequently been used to share political falsehoods, both about candidates and about important campaign issues.” (1). This issue has created a multitude of problems that have hurt different countries' political processes, and hurt democracy. Ultimately, the use of social media in politics have created many benefits, but has also created a multitude of problems. We must have mediation on these sites to stop this spread of political falsehoods and fake news.

Informing People

Through social media, people can be much more informed and learn about certain topics. This also allows political campaigns to gain more traction and popularity. social media can be used as a great tool for young adults to form opinions. According to Jeff From, president of FutureCast, a consumer trends consultancy, “69% of millennials get the news daily and 85% say that keeping up with the news is at least somewhat important to them. Although millennials access news differently than boomers, they access news regularly to keep up-to-date with new information (Forbes). Adding to this, a study by Avril Keeting, Associate Professor of Comparative Social Science at the UCL Institute of Education argues that it is possible that effects are not seen for all social media users but rather for a particular type of user (CELS Survey). It is shown that the least politically sophisticated are those most likely to be affected by new information. It is evident in this study that almost all young adults are on social media and get exposed to political content. It also shows that those who aren’t immersed with the political realm are very affected by new information and shapes their viewpoints on certain ideas and values.

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However, this can ultimately have very negative effects. This will allow social media companies and countries to essentially manipulate and ruin the whole democratic process. According to Hamid Akın Ünver, assistant professor of international relations at Kadir University, states, “Users in authoritarian countries will continue to experience the web as a restricted and obsessively monitored domain, developing counter-mea- sures such as IP masking and VPN services. They will be jailed for tweets or fined for using encrypted messaging services” (12). These authoritarian regimes can control everything about social media, and force the user to accept these unjust policies. Ultimately, Social Media is being used as a form of silence, rather than a form of communication.

Effect of Social Media on Movements

Social media has fostered many movements and have allowed them to grow. John T. Jost et al., head social psychologist at New York University states, “First, information that is vital to the coordination of protest activities, such as news about transportation, turnout, police presence, violence, medical services, and legal support is spread quickly and efficiently through social media channels. Second, social media platforms also transmit emotional and motivational messages both in support of and in opposition to protest activity” (28). This would include messages emphasizing morals, social identification, group efficacy, and concerns about fairness and social justice.

However, social media has had much bigger negative effects on movements. It has hurt the overall message of movements, and corrupts the values of the movement. One of which is the black lives matter movement. The black lives matter movement continues to be altered through the use of hashtags and different people’s personal input. This hurts the entire message of the movement, and ruins the whole point of the movement. Jelani Ince et al., head of the department of sociology at Indiana University, states, “Social Media users interact with Black Lives Matter movement by using hashtags and thus modify the framing of the movement. We call this decentralized interaction with the movement “distributed framing”. Empirically, we illustrate this idea with an analysis of 66,159 tweets that mention #BlackLivesMatter in 2014, when #BlackLivesMatter becomes prominent on social media”(22). This is showing that through the use of simple hashtags, overall ideas and messages become completely corrupted. Social media has also created retaliating movements such as AllLivesMatter. This was used to silence the voices of black lives matter and hurt the movement. Josie e Richards, graduated with a PhD from Oxford University, adds onto Jelani Ince et al. and goes as far as saying that social media has caused a countermovement. She states, “#AllLivesMatter in fact constitutes a reactionary position—a position that wants to go back to a certain divisiveness, rather than forward towards the “multitude” of Hardt and Negri—the proclaimers of which are largely white Americans. While followers of #AllLivesMatter may or may not be in the majority, their voices are loud and powerful and, I argue, work to delegitimize the concerns of black America and specifically the Black Lives Matter movement” (32). In closing, social media has been shown to spread movements quickly and efficiently, however many of these movements are altered and manipulated, taking away the overall message of the movement.

Fake News

Social media has been a facilitator and breeding ground for fake news, and it is misinforming the public and undermining democracy. One of the most significant is politicians misinforming the public. Politicians are constantly falsifying or altering specific statistics or data, and more importantly giving false promises. This attracts young adults as they see all of these false promises, and it hurts our democratic process. Jay David Bolter, professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology, The American electorate, no longer seemed to care about the coherence of political rhetoric. What mattered was that these promises all felt gratifying in the moment, addressing the feelings of grievance and betrayal that some citizens shared with Trump himself. That’s also why it doesn’t matter if the promises were kept, or if they contradict with one another. Additionally, Kylie Fitzpatrick, historical novelist and researcher, with a PhD in creative writing, states, “Right now, I would say that the research is clear: Social media can influence democratically important outcomes like polarization and participation”(1). Ultimately, social media causes harm because rather than providing important information, it jeopardizes democracy because it allows politicians to lie to the American public. Rather than information going through a news source, it goes directly to the American people with no third party mediation.

The Recommendation

Many have come to the conclusion that social media has played an enormous and revolutionary impact on politics.Yet, many argue over whether this change has ultimately hurt or helped our communities. The question is whether a solution should be implemented to stop this. The solution to this problem would be to restrict and monitor politics in social media. However, many critics state that this could be a very harmful step in reducing freedom of expression. One of which is Rafael O. Gomez, an attorney in civil litigation, he states, “Freedom of speech is a critical stitch in the fabric of democracy. The monitoring and restriction of even violent content can have dire consequences” (3). Social Media is causing complete disruption in the political world, and it is only going to get worse.

Works Cited

  1. Bode, Leticia. “Political News in the News Feed: Learning Politics from Social Media.” Mass Communication & Society, vol. 19, no. 1, Jan. 2016, pp. 24–48. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/15205436.2015.1045149.
  2. Bolter, Jay David. 'Why Social Media Are Ruining Political Discourse.' The Atlantic, 19 May 2019, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/05/why-social-media-ruining-political-discourse/589108/. Accessed 16 Oct. 2019.
  3. Cevolini, Alberto. “What Is New in Fake News? The Disinhibition of Dissent in a Hyperconnected Society.” Sociologia e Politiche Sociali, vol. 21, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 75–92. EBSCOhost, doi:10.3280/SP2019-003005.
  4. Fitzpatrick, Kylie. 'How Did Social Media Become Dangerous for Democracy?' UT News, 5 Nov. 2018, news.utexas.edu/2018/11/05/how-did-social-media-become-dangerous-for-democracy/. Accessed 16 Oct. 2019.
  5. Fromm, Jeff. 'New Study Finds Social Media Shapes Millennial Political Involvement and Engagement.' Forbes, 22 June 2016, www.forbes.com/sites/jefffromm/2016/06/22/new-study-finds-social-media-shapes-millennial-political-involvement-and-engagement/#76f3cfef2618. Accessed 16 Oct. 2019.
  6. Garrett, Kelly. 'Social media's Contribution to Political Misperceptions in U.S. Presidential Elections.' PlosOne, 27 Mar. 2019, journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213500.
  7. Ince, Jelani, et al. “The Social Media Response to Black Lives Matter: How Twitter Users Interact with Black Lives Matter through Hashtag Use.” Ethnic & Racial Studies, vol. 40, no. 11, Sept. 2017, pp. 1814–1830. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/01419870.2017.1334931.
  8. Keating, Avril, and Gabriella Melis. “Social Media and Youth Political Engagement: Preaching to the Converted or Providing a New Voice for Youth?” British Journal of Politics & International Relations, vol. 19, no. 4, Nov. 2017, pp. 877–894. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/1369148117718461.
  9. Lee, MJ, Cho, H. Uses of social media in government agencies: Content analyses of public relations strategies and message tactics comparison between South Korea and the United States of America in 2011 and 2014. J Public Affairs. 2018; 18:e1687
  10. Unver, Hamid Akin. “The Fog of Leadership: How Turkish and Russian Presidents Manage Information Constraints and Uncertainty in Crisis Decision-Making.” Journal of Southeast European & Black Sea Studies, vol. 18, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 325–344. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/14683857.2018.1510207.
  11. Wresch, Reviewed By William. “Democracy in the Digital Age: Challenges to Political Life in Cyberspace.” Information Society, vol. 17, no. 2, Apr. 2001, pp. 145–146. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/019722401750175720.
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