Monday, December 7, 2020

2020 - News, Social Media, and Your Bubble - Perfect Storm For Echo Chamber and What I Did To Escape It

Wow, 2020.  It's not over yet and if you read my previous post, well, things have gotten worse.  And yeah, it was COVID related.  When we look back at this year, will we be talking about the pandemic, Trump and the election, or something you read on social media - maybe it's a conspiracy theory or two or a group of like minded people reinforcing certain ideas and notions, bouncing back and forth in a social chamber?

The roles played by social media without a doubt will be studied for years to come.  The focus will likely be the deleterious effort it had on open societies such as ours.  And the question will be if this was a temporary effort and for a period of time or will others takes things further.  

Here are some questions that needs to be answered:

  1. Does the effects of social media go away as a new generation of users go online who are also more savvy about its uses?
  2. Will the toxicity level drop after Trump leaves office?  
  3. With Trump almost certain to position himself as the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, he is planning a shadow government on Twitter?
  4. Does Facebook and Twitter have what it takes to clamp down on conspiracy theories?  
  5. How will the Biden presidency use social media?  
With the election behind us, President Trump has not only refused to concede but continue push a dangerous narrative that he lost because millions of Americans are part of a conspiracy to rig the election against him.  His latest tweets in the last 24 hours has been from his Georgia rally yesterday.  He has continued to feed his base, demonized the Democrat senate candidates, and recycled the same rhetorics from the presidential campaign.  Frankly, it's par for the president.

We will not know until after Biden is sworn in and starts living in the White House how Trump will use social media.  It's unlikely we'll see anything different.  We have seen in this term that Trump has not shown a willingness to learn and change.  

As for Biden, we may look at the Obama administration for guidance with one big change:  a more engaged White House speaking to the American people.  One of the first acts Biden plans is to request Americans wear masks for 100 days.  I can expect Biden or Dr. Anthony Fauci to continue to engage the public on a more personal level.  At the same time, Biden's last week was on 11/7, the day after the election stating "America, I’m honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country. The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not. I will keep the faith that you have placed in me."

It is likely the Biden administration will use official government accounts to relay social media messages vs President Trump using his own account.  At the current stage, Trump has almost a 4.5 times advantage in followers over Biden (Trump has almost 89 million followers vs Biden at 20.6 million.  President Obama has almost 127 million.)

As for the rest of us, who will we follow and how will we use social media in 2021?  Personally, I do not updates much as I used to.  And I'm all over the place when I do tweet - tech news, opinions, and, occasionally, a social/personal one.  For me, social media is a tool.  I use to gather information and sharing tweets. I try avoiding becoming a mindless drone among legions of retweets.  I like that Twitter is looking to implement an extra step to keep people from simply hitting the retweet button - basically, you're forced to read the post first before instinctively retweeting it (Techcrunch).  Other features like a warning to users about liking tweets with misleading information.  

Social media will continue to grow and mature over the next year as they fine tune the social graph to avoid much of the more free Wild Wild West of the last four years.  I think that's good and users will respond accordingly.

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