I grew up in a generation that experienced the before and beginning of social media. Before the internet, traditional media like magazines, newspapers, and radio were the main avenues of communication. News and storytelling have branched out from traditional media onto social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Now that social media has taken over our lives, how does it influence our society?
Social media makes it extremely easy for users to share thoughts and articles circulating the internet. But what is stopping them from spreading misinformation? Unfortunately, misinformation is just as easily spread as factual information.
Traditional media was once considered a trusted source of information by the people. Now that social media has made it so easy to spread misinformation, it has created distrust.
The Hypodermic Needle Theory of Communication talks about the media’s power over an audience. The theory explains how media controls what the audience views and listens to and the effects on the far or immediate future.
Since I belong to a younger generation, I have more of an understanding of how social media works. I understand that it’s easy to create a meme with a caption that can be purposely misleading or support a certain viewpoint and that others can see this message and use it as factual information. I understand that some media networks and channels tend to be biased and lean towards a certain direction. Since we carry small computers in our pockets everywhere, it is increasingly easier to research topics and discussions showing various viewpoints and factual information. I have gotten into a habit of researching topics I knew little about on various different news platforms; getting into this habit has helped me become a bit less vulnerable to misinformation. For some, social media has become a source of factual information and news.
According to research done by the Pew Research Center, 64% of Americans say social media has mostly a negative effect, in particular, with misinformation and online harassment. The Hypodermic Needle Theory explains how mass media plays a large role in how its audiences react.
Like I said before, social media has made it increasingly easy for users to share articles and information, whether or not it was from a reliable source or factual and users tend to share articles solely based on their viewpoints and nothing else. The Hypodermic Needle Theory helps us understand that media has power over an audience — like a magic bullet that enters the minds of an audience and injects a particular message. While social media does have positive effects on society like bringing people together, sharing moments of our lives together, and inspiring others, there also comes responsibility on social media.