Is Society Becoming More Polarized Because of Social Media?

Computers & TechnologyMultimedia

  • Author Liam Barrett
  • Published April 11, 2021
  • Word count 2,638

Is Society Becoming More Polarized Because of Social Media?

Liam Barrett

English II

Mr. Dickson

28 March 2021

Research Proposal

This paper discusses how social media is causing society to be more polarized in politics. It can be argued that social media does not have any impact on the standpoint of political and social beliefs, but there are numerous examples of how it has impacted society and history. The effects are not well known to many citizens on what exactly social media is doing to society. Young people are easily influenced by social media’s manipulative tactics. It is crucial to address the effects of social media because it may ultimately change the future. A fundamental problem in social media is that many people only see one side of a story, which influences their political views. If many people become increasingly divided in their beliefs and opinions from each other, it can cause violence and prevent the advancement and growth of society. This research project will pull from many databases and sources of information to best examine how social media is impacting the polarization of the public. The research shows that social media is causing society to be more politically and socially diverse.

Abstract

Society is becoming more polarized because of social media’s numerous platforms and manipulative business models, which have political and social impacts. It is established that social media can be manipulative and have very real effects on individuals. Research has shown that there are and will be more problems in society due to social media, which includes more violence between political groups and people with different backgrounds and lifestyles. Polarization is the increasing division between two attitudes or beliefs to ideological extremes, and it causes many changes to occur in society throughout everyday life.

The research was gathered from online articles, databases, documentaries, and books that prove social media is causing polarization in society.

With all of the numerous platforms, there is a great amount of false and biased information to possibly be spread. These platforms are manipulative and cause polarization which has many political and social impacts on society.

In conclusion, social media has many ways of being polarizing to society. It is proven that social media does have a serious impact on many people’s lives in society.

Liam Barrett

Mr. Dickson

English II

28 March 2021

Is Society Becoming More Polarized Because of Social Media?

Democrat or Republican. White or Black. Us or Them. Polarization is the increasing division between two attitudes or beliefs to ideological extremes that causes many changes to occur in society throughout everyday life. When social media was first created, many citizens did not realize the possible and countless real effects of polarization in society. Society is becoming more polarized because of social media’s numerous platforms and manipulative business models, which have political and social impacts.

The numerous social media platforms available provide more polarized opinions than ever before and target age groups differently. Back in the 1960s, there were only three channels that were broadcasted on television: NBC, CBS, and ABC (Ganzel 2007). These television channels had minimal biases. Now, there’s Tiktok, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, along with hundreds of cable networks and radio stations that have all different kinds of information. The many platforms cause people to be more polarized because more information can be false, manipulated, or biased. Author Hong expresses that “Daily, citizens share information published via government Twitter accounts, and the content may be fragmented or customized. Furthermore, the trend for information to be shared in this way may not be easily reversed” (Hong 2016). These platforms also target age groups differently. Facebook is generally used by older citizens, TikTok is commonly used by teenagers and younger kids, Instagram and Twitter are social media apps that are commonly used by many different ages of people (but still mainly appeal to the youth). Author Hong explains that “Twitter has emerged as a key platform on which anyone with a smartphone can engage in political discourse” (Hong 2016). Similar age groups engage in political debates over social media, which separates the spread of ideas between generations. This spread of false information causes differences in viewpoints between those who are constantly fed information from one biased source and those who are fed information from a different biased source. Twitter can post something about politics and have it be spread instantly to citizens all across the world with information many people will remember. Overall, the many social media platforms available are contributing to the polarization of the public.

The business models of these platforms are polarizing their users because they focus on selling ads, reinforcing viewpoints by showing people what they want to see, and fostering addiction. Platforms sell advertisements to companies for a profit. Instagram’s website appeals to businesses by telling companies that “each ad is tailored to the actions users took on [the business’s] site” and that they can “promote specific products a user viewed or are likely to buy” and “up-sell existing clients with related offerings” (AdRoll 2021). Social media apps track what a viewer does on an app and then sends ads that are believed to be related to what the viewer likes. A simple advertisement shows people what they want to see (they are exposed to only what they are already interested in). Similarly, social media can make a person have a certain belief about something that they can reinforce by never exposing them to the other side or by portraying the opposite side in an excessively negative, harsh light. Reinforcement of viewpoints is another highly common business model of social media apps. Algorithms are the way in which a viewpoint is reinforced to a citizen through an app and there are many different ones. Certain algorithms send and suggest information to a viewer that is related to what was looked at previously and is information that the viewer wants to see. On TikTok, there is something called a “for you page,” which has endless videos that are related to videos the viewer has previously watched. James Cooper talks about how “TikTok focuses on the performance of each individual video rather than [taking] into account your whole profile. The platform looks at the amount of rewatches, shares, comments and likes each video gains” (Cooper 2021). Viewpoints on social media that people disagree with are rarely shown to opposing sides, leading to social media “bubbles.” “Polarization in the U.S. could be driven by exposure to views people disagree with, rather than being separated from them by filter bubbles'' (Lee De-Wit, Sander Van Der Linden, Cameron Brick 2019). This leads to an increase in polarization. Another documentary says, “We’ve created a world in which online connection has become primary. Especially for younger generations. And yet, in that world, anytime two people connect, the only way it’s financed is through a sneaky third person who’s paying to manipulate those two people. So we’ve created an entire global generation of people who were raised within a context with the very meaning of communication, the very meaning of culture, is manipulation.” (Lainer 2020). Social media apps are designed to be addictive and manipulative, which is caused by algorithms designed to keep people happy in their comfort zones, contributing to polarization. The business model of these apps also fosters addiction. One reason people get addicted to social media is that it creates a sense of well-being. If someone posts something and gets many likes and followers, it can cause a feeling of euphoria, which would not have occurred without the use of social media. “When we replace the human-level communities we thrive in—such as religion, civic responsibility, education, and volunteerism—with communities online that give us a false sense of power, we are heading down the path of failure” (Zito 2019). Social media provides a false sense of power and righteousness because people are manipulated into developing extreme opinions through the problematic business models of social media platforms and are rewarded by the addictive nature of these apps to keep their opinions.

The effects of polarization range from political riots to social beliefs that focus on an “Us vs. Them” attitude. One of the biggest effects of polarization is seen in politics. The article “Are Social Media Driving Political Polarization?” says “Since 1994, the number of Americans who see the opposing political party as a threat to ‘the nation’s well-being’ has doubled.” (Lee De-Wit, Sander Van Der Linden, Cameron Brick 2019). More citizens are either Democrats or Republicans instead of moderates, which is caused by social media feeding negative beliefs toward the opposing political group. There is even evidence that shows that the most recent election has affected people’s viewpoints because of social media. Violence at the capitol building is the result of social media encouraging political violence by spreading rumors about rigged election counts and secret terrorist organizations. There are also numerous amounts of social polarization in our society. Social media has created tension about the subject of racism in society today. “Cancel culture” pits the public against a single individual and allows people to be easily criticized. When this happens, some people apologize for their actions and join the canceling majority, but others, rather than admitting to making a mistake, only strengthen their previous beliefs to justify their actions. Many people believe that African Americans are still not completely equal to white Americans, and this has caused lots of anger in society. "Big Walter used to say, he'd get right wet in the eyes sometimes, lean his head back with the water standing in his eyes and say, 'Seem like God didn't see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams - but he did give us children to make them dreams seem worth while” (Hansberry 29). Many African American citizens in society today are still being degraded and people on social media are arguing about it, which has caused lots of violence and riots from those who support this idea and those who do not. “I used to support BLM, but now I see them as violent domestic terrorists not interested in addressing the real problems within the Black community. BLM is about a communist revolution not about helping the Black community…” (Perrin 2020). This is an example of a person who had his beliefs manipulated by social media. His opinion on Black Lives Matter changed because of misinformation that has been spread about the purpose of the movement. It proves that social media has caused many citizens to argue issues about racism and think negatively toward someone who has a different view on something. Along with these topics, there is an increase in polarization on the topic of sexism and sexual preference. All of these are just examples of how the public is becoming more polarized.

Social media is contributing to the polarization of the public. There are many effects, such as an increase in people who have extreme views, which can lead to violence between opposing groups. People on social media and social media platforms have greatly contributed to an increase in polarization in society. Many citizens do not realize how social media’s manipulative business models are making people more separated from each other. There have been many effects and more will continue to happen if social media keeps reinforcing polarization in society.

Works cited

AdRoll. “Facebook and Instagram Ads with AdRoll.” AdRoll, 2021, www.adroll.com/sem/facebook-instagram-ads?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=intl-facebookbudget-signup&utm_term=instagram-ad&utm_content=instagram+ad&ar_clx=yes&ar_channel=google_ads&ar_campaign=10167352534&ar_adgroup=101817626877&ar_ad=506815353270&ar_strategy=search&gclid=Cj0KCQjw0oCDBhCPARIsAII3C_FScYs0bLRyK1fAI8cwrfbSFDTf6kyFg2cyCzkliImv9P0WuBmNgV4aAuxMEALw_wcB.

Cooper, James. “TikTok Marketing Companies (2020).” Business of Apps, 10 Mar. 2021,

www.businessofapps.com/marketplace/tiktok/.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Great Gatsby. New directions, 2021

Ganzel, Bill. Television, Wessets, 2007, livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe50s/life_17.html.

Hong, Sounman. Political Polarization on Twitter: Social Media May Contribute to Online

Extremism, OpenScholar, 2016, scholar.harvard.edu/sounman_hong/political-polarization-twitter-social-media-may-contribute-online-extremism.

Instagram for Business, Instagram, 1 May 2019, business.instagram.com/.

Lee de-Wit, Sander Van Der, et al. “Is Social Media Driving Political Polarization?” Greater Good,

Greater Good Magazine, 16 Jan. 2019, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_social_media_driving_political_polarization.

Orlowski, Jeff. “The Social Dilemma.” Netflix Official Site, 9 Sept. 2020,

www.netflix.com/title/81254224.

Perrin, Andrew. “23% Of Users in U.S. Say Social Media Led Them to Change Views on an

Issue; Some Cite Black Lives Matter.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 16 Oct. 2020,

Zito, Salena. "Social Media Does Not Reflect the Real America." Gale Opposing Viewpoints

Online Collection, Gale, 2021. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/EGEVZE488199519/OVIC?u=cast18629&sid=OVIC&xid=f3dd7713. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021. Originally published as "The perils of trading social

Annotated Bibliography

Hong, Sounman. Political Polarization on Twitter: Social Media May Contribute to Online

Extremism, OpenScholar, 2016, scholar.harvard.edu/sounman_hong/political-polarization-twitter-social-media-may-contribute-online-extremism.

This is a great source written by a professor from Harvard who talks about social media and how it is creating polarization in society. It says that social media creates networks of people with similar viewpoints which can influence many things including politics. It even states that the recent presidential elections have been manipulated because of social media. Political leaders and followers of them can easily and quickly spread information about them or events related to them and it causes numerous impacts and polarization.

Lee de-Wit, Sander Van Der, et al. “Is Social Media Driving Political Polarization?” Greater Good,

Greater Good Magazine, 16 Jan. 2019, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_social_media_driving_political_polarization.

This is a reliable resource that talks a lot about how social media is contributing to polarization in the United States. It specifically says how in politics the percent of democrats and republicans has increased greatly rather than groups in between them. It also states that social media only shows one side to an event which is and can lead to polarization. Many democrats and republicans have thoughts that the opposing political party is a threat to the nation's well-being. This source has a lot of good and reliable information I can use in my research paper.

Orlowski, Jeff. “The Social Dilemma.” Netflix Official Site, 9 Sept. 2020,

www.netflix.com/title/81254224.

The social dilemma is a Netflix documentary that thoroughly discusses the effects and the dangers of social media in society. It talks about how social media was designed and its effects can be very polarizing. It talks about how social media easily manipulates a person; it keeps showing information that the person viewing it wants to see which can reinforce opinions. This is a reliable source to use with lots of information to show people how social media is very much impacting society and making it more polarized.

Zito, Salena. "Social Media Does Not Reflect the Real America." Gale Opposing Viewpoints

Online Collection, Gale, 2021. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, link.gale.com/apps/doc/EGEVZE488199519/OVIC?u=cast18629&sid=OVIC&xid=f3dd7713. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021. Originally published as "The perils of trading social interaction for social media," Washington Examiner, 18 Aug. 2019.

This database is all about how social media does not reflect the real media because of its information. It says that social media was designed to bring people together but in reality, it is doing the opposite. It says that social media can often punish people with unpopular ideas because the apps create standards to be the perfect person. I also learned and read on the website that social media creates a false sense of power. On social media people receive likes and comments which can often create a false sense of fame which in real life people do not receive. This database article gave me a lot of good information that I can use to show how social media is making society more politically diverse.

I am a Softmore at Chaparral Highschool. This is my research paper on how social media is making society more diverse. My email is Barrettlm@s.dcsdk12.org.

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