Final Paper Summary – Deirdre Kelshaw

According to The Social Factor: Innovate, Ignite and Win Through Mass Collaboration and Social Networking, Maria Azua states that since the dawn of social media, society has found itself leaving what’s known as the advanced Informational Age and transitioning into the Social Age. Many people believe that social media has brought society closer together, allowing them to form new relationships or reconnect with old friends and family members. Others also think that social media serves as a basis for entirely factual information, many consuming their news purely from social platforms. While these types of platforms provide various positive outcomes, they are also changing the way we perceive information. “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” Despite how much we’ve heard this and how tired we get from it, it’s true. With the introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, communication technology has become extremely important when it comes to maintaining connections – yet, I argue that it has also negatively impacted the way we listen to professionals, specifically those in healthcare. While we once would have prioritized information from doctors, scientists and government officials in the midst of a pandemic, society now curates health-related information based on unreliable information found online and relational identities that we forge through social media. Rather than listening to professionals, we not only trust information from those whom we identify with in our social networks, but we also distrust information from those against whom we divide, along cultural and ideological lines, thus, potentially, harming the health of individuals, amplifying misinformation and disinformation and ultimately prolonging the pandemic. 

First discovered in December of 2019, COVID-19 soon ran rampant across the world. Forced to stay in our homes to avoid infection, much of society turned to the Internet and spent most of their time scrolling through social media or staying in touch with friends and family online. However, social media also served, and continues to serve, as a tool for many individuals as a way of staying up to date with news regarding the pandemic. The Pew Research Center reported that about four-in-ten Americans say social media is an important way of following COVID-19 vaccine news. Although, when we no longer look to reliable and unbiased news sources for direction, we begin to be presented with information that suits our own views, rather than fully tells us the truth. This can be explained by the algorithms engrained in social media.

These algorithms show users health-related information that’s fitting of their opinion – despite health being factually based. The information users are exposed to all comes back to what their friends are sharing or liking. As a result, based on the high frequency and visibility of these catered posts, we begin to believe what our friends and family members are saying online, more so than what professionals are saying. While it’s reasonable to question our doctors, we still should not be relying solely on the media to offer their same functions. The Internet should be used as a tool, not as the end all be all.

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