Communication is an essential part of modern life, and today, it takes place both in real and virtual spaces. In the past decades, numerous technologies that people can use to interact with each other emerged and were almost immediately replaced with new and improved versions aiming to make societal contact more private, intimate, and instant. Every improvement of the existing technologies has also affected how people correspond with each other online and offline. This essay will examine social media as the most utilized contemporary tool of communication and discuss how to socialize it in order to make it safer for democracy.
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It can be argued that a substantial proportion of meaningful communication takes place online. According to Magala (148), there are a plethora of various processes that are described as “relations and social interactions with electronically mediated (tele)communications.” However, contact on social media does not necessarily occur between two or more people. For example, a conversation between a political candidate and their constituents happens in the form of a message released by that runner and mediated by their public relations staff and the comments to that message. In this case, the posted address is manufactured to appeal to a specific target audience, with people mediating it having their own agendas for releasing it (Magala 163). Such messages are also created to garner as much attention and responses as possible, leading to the posted materials not always reflecting the reality of the situation. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that social media is safe to protect individuals and groups of people using it, various values that can be damaged via it, and social and political systems in general.
The protection of the listed stakeholders, values, and systems can be achieved through guaranteeing transparency of messages circulated in the media. Knowing all the authors behind a post or address and their agendas can help people determine the purpose of the published information and its accuracy and reliability. According to Magala (161), the current lack of transparency of the mediated messages released via any medium can be attributed to the “late and fragmented attempt to understand the rituals of mediation.” Thus, the reality presented via film, television, or social media differs from that of the offline world due to situations on the screens being written and directed by people with specific vies, biases, and prejudices. Although the fictitious nature of television shows and movies is well-known, they can still perpetuate harmful stereotypes that some viewers can accept as accurate. In contrast, numerous posts published on social networks are often regarded as truthful and genuine despite a lack of proof. Overall, it is imperative to ensure the transparency behind inflammatory and radical posts to avoid mediated prejudices being spread further.
Moreover, information released on social networks and other media is often subject to exaggeration that can influence one’s judgment and disseminate negative biases. Magala (158) remarks that some target audiences can analyze the messages aimed at them by the media. However, researchers and social media users often focus on one aspect of such communication without analyzing its other characteristics (159). Considering the number of articles and posts published every day on different virtual platforms, the distribution of misleading information can substantially impact numerous people and their views on various topics. The issue can be addressed via social media websites’ moderators marking posts containing unconfirmed information as unverified and removing those that include false or provocative messages.
In summary, social media is an innovative technology that has significantly influenced how people communicate with each other and propagate their views and beliefs. However, such networks do not guarantee the transparency of certain messages that may aim to spread mediated prejudices. Additionally, some posts purposefully contain false and inflammatory information and are rarely fact-checked by the readers. Overall, there is a need for better moderation of social media websites in order to socialize them and make them safer for users and democracy.
Magala, Slawek. The Management of Meaning in Organizations. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.