Social media is an incredible tool that continues to grow and develop. It offers endless amounts of opportunities like staying connected with friends, catching up on the latest news, research and much more.
People can access social media with the click of a button. From there, the amount of information they are able to retrieve is endless. From looking up what your favorite celebrity had for lunch, to researching recommendations for your next trip, social media has it all.
The amount of information that a person has access to on social media is endless. However, how is a user able to trust that this information is accurate? To put it in simple terms, they can’t.
Fake news, a term popularized by President Trump, is floating around social media 24/7, waiting to grasp a user’s attention.
But how does it spread?
As a user continues to click on certain types of content, algorithms will take note of this. Then, the algorithm will start feeding the user content that is similar to the content that they have already been interacting with.
Users will continue to consume information through social media, however, these algorithms can become very biased and full of misinformation. When a user continues to see stories and information in their feed over and over again, it appears that the information is gaining more credit to be accurate.
The scary part is, it could all be false. Algorithms are not filtering out fake news. In fact, it is often the fake news which draws the most attention from the user. According to Newsguard, within the last year the percentage of interactions with unreliable news sites has doubled from about 8 to 17 percent.
A leading topic in the news over the course of the past year has been the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many different beliefs surrounding this virus, its effects and much more. When a user visits a social media platform, they are likely to see news about the pandemic.
Based on a user’s previous interactions with information about COVID-19, the algorithm will generate content that the user will likely have a reaction to causing them to interact with the content.
The problem is, not all information about COVID-19 on social media is accompanied with a reliable source. This leaves room for misinformation to spread.
As people react to posts about COVID-19, whether they contain factual information or not, the posts will gain likes and shares. The more likes, comments and shares a post receives, the more real the information in the post seems.
The next thing you know, the post is trending. Just because it is trending does not mean it’s true.
It is easy to get caught up in the free flow of information on social media. There is so much potential to learn about new things, but it is important to check your sources before trusting everything you read on social media.