Chapter 12 The Social Media Landscape

Self-Simulation and Social Consequences

In: Education for Democracy 2.0
Maria Leena Korpijaakko
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Social media platforms (SMPs) have emerged as a powerful means for connecting individuals while simultaneously allowing for commercial gain, mass surveillance, data mining, opinion influencing, and political manipulation. The remarkable success of SMPs stems from their ability to both adapt to and exploit a fundamental human need for belonging as well as a desire for social status (). As such, they become contested spaces for marketers, political operatives, and unknown actors who wish to influence and sway public opinion. However, when they act as democratic vehicles for social and political engagement, through the spread of information, SMPs can also be used as a medium for social change.

Furthering and ensuring this requires critical social media literacy (CSML) which will elucidate how users process the other, themselves, and information, as well as exposing how SMP algorithms intervene in perception while exploiting economic or politically-motivated data-mining.

In this chapter, I use Facebook and Snapchat to discuss why people become attached to particular SMPs, how the designs of SMPs encourages and exploits these attachments, and how SMP algorithms are created to serve social and economic interests that are contrary to the pursuit of justice. I shall also examine factors relating to SMPs that deter democratic social participation. In conclusion, I discuss how this knowledge can be used as a part of overall CSML skills, which can also serve to counteract the negative aspects of the cultures on SMPs and buttress the potential for the medium to to increase democratic participation, subverting whatever nefarious purposes may exist in order to create participatory democracies.

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