‘Likes’ and ‘Shares’ Make People More ‘Radical’: Yale University
Social Media is undeniably the most commonly used tool of information today. Digital sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram, and Reddit have millions of users who like and share content every day. In fact, the number is so high that most users today use social media as their only source of information, news, and current affairs. And social media is even easier to use with TV and internet deal. In the modern world, news agencies, and media outlets realize the importance of this medium and thus, keep sharing their stories on social media. However, not all is well. A new study by Yale University has revealed a darker aspect of social media sites.
Amplified Moral Outrage
The findings by Yale University in a new study show that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter increased feelings of moral outrage among users. Yale used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to gauge tweets of thousands of users on Twitter to determine how outrage had been affected. They measured the amount of moral outrage and compared it with the past and present.
The results showed that Twitter rewarded users for moral outrage. This is because when users expressed themselves emotionally online, they were likely to attract attention. And this attention came in the form of likes and shares. This only encouraged such users to express similar emotions in the future to receive a similar response. Yale University’s Molly Crockett said that moral outrage plays a very important role in social and political movements. Thus, technical companies, she stated, have the power to influence the success and failure of such movements and changes.
Professor Crockett along with her colleagues also carried out experiments to support their findings. They performed controlled behavioral experiments with more than 200 volunteers. They then used a Twitter-like social media platform to check behaviors. The findings revealed that when users were rewarded for expressing outrage online, they were more likely to do this again in the future.
Yale University also revealed other changes in behavior. The study showed that social media can also ‘radicalize’ political views. Outrage is common in members of politically extreme groups but the study doesn’t end here. It showed that the politically moderate social media users were more affected by the reward systems. In fact, likes and shares influenced the moderate more than the extreme. This means that social media algorithms radicalize even the moderate. According to Professor Crockett, this is because they are more sensitive to feedback on these social media sites. But this only encourages displays of outrage.
William Brady, a psychologist at Yale, said that these people express more outrage over time because of algorithms. Social media is designed in a way that benefits and rewards users who express more of this emotion. He also said that such behaviors are changing the “tone’ of online conversations.
False Claims by Social Media Companies
This study by Yale has shown that social media companies make false claims. They insist that they encourage healthy conversation and debate online that would have occurred anywhere else. But this is not true. Such sites motivate certain kinds of behavior to keep users interested and fueled. Thus, social media users learn more towards extreme, violent emotions.
Social media outrage opens up a lot of positive avenues. It can be used to help the voiceless and to show what’s really going on around the world. This means that it can influence conversations and change. When the United States evacuated Afghanistan, live reports from the ground revealed how Afghanistan had been left. This led to public support for refugees and hefty donations. Similarly, when Palestine and Israel were the news, social media exposed the truth. The fact that one had an army and one did not, which was unjust and unfair. Public pressure can change the world. America lost the Vietnam War because of public pressure. But social media must be used responsibly and with caution. With influence this big, it can lead to disaster if not used right.
Here’s a list of social media platforms with the highest number of users:
- Network, Active users (MM):
- Facebook, 2701
- YouTube, 2000
- WhatsApp, 2000
- Messenger, 1300
- WeChat, 1203
- Instagram, 1082
- TikTok, 800
- Reddit, 430
- Snapchat, 397
- Twitter, 326