Social Media Echo Chambers: Ignorance

A Threat to Humankind?

In the first part of this series, we talk about what Echo Chambers are, how they are created and the Business models driving social media network. In this part I want us to look at information itself. Sharing, leak of and knowledge of information.

Merriam Webster defines ignorance as ”the state or fact of being ignorant: lack of knowledge, education, or awareness”.

Did you start to spot the problem? The lack of education and awareness on the new digital world we live in and technologies running many parts of are day to day life has left many feeling left out. And that it’s too late to catch up. But can you blame them? Technology is developing at an exponential rate.

Ignorance

I had my first computer and first cellphone (yes, remember that) 18 years ago. I remember the dial tone of the land line connecting with the internet and being exited to be able to go online it was a luxury at the time. Fast forward to now were my 8-year-old can work with his laptop better than I did at 16, does not care where the internet comes from or how it works (I have tried many times to explain it in a childlike manner) but God forgive it fell out, ohhhh … the catastrophy.

We are all witness of a big leap forward for humanity. Image having to tell your 5-year-old self all about the world we live in today. And then try to explain that 5-year-old how it all works and the technology behind it. That quit a task, right? But we should try to do just that. And the answers need to be in away a 5 year could truly understand. Cause we are going to have to explain all this to younger and younger children. Don’t get me wrong, I know they know how to use technology, the thing is they don’t know how technology is being used against them. Leak of awareness is ignorance and ignorance can be dangerous.

Schools are struggling to keep up with teaching kids about all of this cause most of they themselves don’t seem to fully understand how technology can be used. Beat some of you have witness this through the 1st lockdown till the latest. And I think many people are eager to get the kids off the screens and back into the classrooms. But I can help to wonder if we should be focusing on finding a way to make it work better. Think about what it will mean if more children had more assess to higher quality of learning and teaching them the skills they need to thrive in this digital world. Trying to bridge the knowledge gap before a gets any bigger.

So, Information Is The Key?

Merriam Webster defines Information as “knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction” and “the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence”.

That means search for the facts about a certain subject understanding how something works and why it works that way. It is at this point were many critics come on strong on the education system.

See, the education system in most parts of the world are teaching children to memorize answers not how to get to the answers and when they take a swing at teaching a more abstract way of thinking they end up overcomplicating things. Don’t believe look at any 8-to-15-year old’s math book! We are leaving the task of teaching technology in the hands of people that mostly are not technically knowledgeable and they are preparing are youth for a digital world.

Just giving information without the knowledge of critical, abstract and ethical thinking will not always yield the best results. In a world where the internet and social media in particular are pervasive in everyone’s personal and professional lives, it has become increasingly difficult for schools, teachers, as well as parents to appropriately address the digital challenges these new media can present for pupils, students and even themselves. With the advent of excessive customizations of news feeds, information flows and search results, finding accurate, unbiased information online has become increasingly difficult. These new online environments demand very specific literacy skills from their users in order for them to be fully in control of their online presence and to make the most of the opportunities these new technologies and online platforms have to offer, while also steering clear of risks.

Social Media Literacy can be defined stating from UNESCO’s definition of Media and Information Literacy (MIL) which is:  “a set of competencies that empowers citizens to access, retrieve, understand, evaluate and use, create as well as share information and media content in all formats, using various tools, in a critical, ethical and effective way in order to participate and engage in personal professional and societal activities. This means that a ‘media and information literate person must not only be a consumer of information and media content, but also a responsible information seeker, knowledge creator and innovator, who is able to take advantage of a diverse range of information and communication tools and media’”

Social media literacy (SML) can therefore be understood as the “specific set of technical, cognitive and emotional competencies that are required when using social media to search for information, for communication, content creation and for problem-avoiding and problem-solving, both in both professional and social contexts.”

Can We Agree On Facts And Truth?

Merriam Webster defines Knowledge as “the circumstance or condition of apprehending truth or fact through reasoning “, “the fact or condition of having information or of being learned “, “the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence”

Key words being truth and fact. In an age where information has become disinformation it’s becoming hard for us the agreed on anything. We are still at the point where there is a debate on the shape of the world. Facts have become opinions and truth depended on personal believe and all of it gets reinforced by personalized feeds sucking out the air of any opposing opinions or believes. “Many feeling the same way I do”, Donald Trump has said this many times. And depending on where you stand on him you may think he is right or totally crazy. But he is just a voice in the echo chamber in which he dwells. Where “alternative facts” is a real thing meaning “if I agree with it it’s real if not it’s fake news”.

We are at a point in society were depending on which chamber we are in we see the world from a very different way. Creating deep seeded tribalism to the point we are cutting off people for have a different world view which in its turn further isolates us. And I understand the reasons for wanting to do that. I myself have do it. Not based on political views but for posting or sharing content I found so absurd I question having such people in my friend list and lacking the desire to engage them found unfriending or unfollow a better way to deal with it. “Hey, am stopping the spread of misinformation. Out of my sight out of my mind, right!” Not really, I didn’t really help stop the spreading of misinformation at the source, the person spreading it. Cause even when I don’t see what they post the models are still pushing this content to others, others that unlike me can spot a Malta based click bite site.

If many users are having troubles figuring out what is real or not, I can’t help feeling a pit in my stomach. If people are getting fooled by people with time to burn, easy to use and free editing software how bad will it get when deep fakes are more widely used, and the software is refined? Voice and speech editing software can already transform voice to the point they can sound identical. Add the visual into that mix and you can create video of anybody saying anything. Point and case Channel 4 (UK) has sparked controversy and debate with a deepfake video of the Queen as an alternative to her traditional festive broadcast, that was aired on Christmas Day 2020. The deepfake Queen, voiced by the actor Debra Stephenson, also performed a dance routine on TikTok.

Channel 4 said the broadcast was intended to give a “stark warning” about the threat of fake news in the digital era, with its director of programmes, Ian Katz, describing the video as a “a powerful reminder that we can no longer trust our own eyes”. Some experts suggested the broadcast might make the public think deepfake technology was more commonly used than is the case.

But if we cannot trust the information we get, the things we hear or the things we see the question of what is real and what is reality become even greater. I don’t doubt that there are engineers trying to tackle this problem at this very moment. But the technology only can solve it way of thinking has brought us to this point and when we find a technological way to try and fight this, will business models lacking an ethical compass misuse it? “Trust” on sale! Selling truth as commodity?  Leak of trust can cause a social phenomenon called “Anomie”.

Anomie is a societal condition defined by an uprooting or breakdown of any moral values, standards or guidance for individuals to follow. Anomie may evolve from conflict of belief systems and causes breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community (both economic and primary socialization). The term commonly understood to mean normlessness.

“But we will keep an eye on them make sure they do the right thing!” We have seen that self-regulation hasn’t been quit the success you would have think. But this unstructured loose culture it at the very center of the DNA of Silicon Valley, and it has to do with the era many of the first tech companies started.

All this is sparking a need for structure and this need comes in the form of the desire for authority leaders. According to Professor Paul Miller of the Central Penn College. And looking around at the world that type of leadership is on the rise.

This’s week’s thought: It this society’s cry for help?

“Without structural changes in both how social media sites respond to conflict and the economic incentives for spreading inaccurate or sensational information, extremism and therefore conflict will continue”
– Alice Marwick

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