The Frightening Impact of Social Media

By Christian Wilke

It’s estimated that the amount of Americans engaging with social media is nearly two-thirds of the population and growing. As we rely more heavily on social media to communicate with others, it’s only natural that the internet would expand its real estate and create spaces that draw in people of similar convictions. Think of r/politics on Reddit that is widely regarded as a left leaning social media territory. While we are often free to challenge ideologies with complete strangers, we are also given opportunities to retreat into the communities that have our backs.

Analyzing the social media aspects of this election, I have my concerns about these aligned communities. Many are aware of the effects of an echo chamber which, more often than not, are contrived from these exact groups of people that think in parallel. Korean internet media experts analyzed the vulnerabilities of these echo chambers in a scientific article titled “Rumor Propagation is Amplified by Echo Chambers in Social Media” and determined that “the top 10% of hub rumor echo chambers contribute to propagation of 24% rumors by eliciting more than 36% of retweets, implying that core rumor echo chambers significantly contribute to rumor spreads.” So, when people flock to their political parties in the midst of the election, there’s no denying that misinformation will continue to circulate. It may be widely accepted that you should be skeptical about anything you see on the internet, but what about news from reliable sources? In 2013, AP News falsely tweeted about a nonexistent explosion at the White House that caused a brief plummet of $130 billion in stock value. The AP News twitter account was hacked.

Social media is an incomparable tool in our world, but it’s important to be aware of its shortcomings. This election, I expect people to exploit social media to propagate rumors that will leave many in the dark as to what is really happening Election Night in America.

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