There is one clear lesson we learned from Brexit and the American presidential election. Never believe what you see on social media.
The result of these two political events happening in 2016 was surprising and shocking to many liberals, who never doubted their victory.
Why did everyone fail to see what was happening? Let me tell you about my own experiences and show you my point of view.
Back in June 2016, I was so shocked when British people voted to leave the European Union (EU). I knew it was going to be a close one, but I never doubted that majority of people would still vote to stay in the EU. As a student in a multicultural university in London, I was surrounded by people interested in politics, anthropology, and human rights. Naturally, my Facebook feed was full of friends being very vocal about their preference for “STAY”ing in the EU.
On all my social media feeds, I never saw a single post supporting Brexit. When the results came out, I was so shocked and surprised, not just with the result, but with the fact that I failed to see the existence of so many people who were different from myself and people surrounding me. That was the first time I found out that there were actually many people supporting Brexit. I heard about them, but until then I had never seen them or heard their opinions.
This is because the algorithm used by social media that displays only what you prefer to see. By liking, following, searching, and sharing what you are interested in, social media platforms learn your preferences, and they are trained to show us only what we like in order to drive engagement and improve our user experience.
This way we just can’t see the existence of the “others”. It was probably the case for those who were for “Brexit” or voted for Trump too. For them, we were just a small number of rich elitists talking about our own fantasies. They never doubted that Brexit was for the best of the country, and didn’t see the existence of us, or good reasons why we were opposing Brexit.
People like president-elect Trump and Boris Johnson realized the nature of social media that creates distance between two groups of people. This is when “Post-truth politics” was born. Only talking about outrageous lies, leveraging sensationalism, and making the opposition look as bad and distant as possible. It no longer matters if what they say is the truth or a lie.
Like this, social media has made it possible to connect people who are living in distant places, but also made people living in the neighborhood so distant. What can we do now? I have to say media has hardly been able to tell truth. However, social media’s curatorial nature makes it even more difficult for you to see different opinions than traditional media.
As social media makes it look like your world is complete and everyone thinks the same way as you do, maybe we still need traditional media like TV and newspaper which forces us to see the opposition and process their ideas. It’s a less pleasant experience than a nicely curated world of your own social media feeds, but this way we can still see the existence of other kinds of people.
What do you think about social media and politics? Let us hear your opinion!
I am currently working as an intern for a global advertising agency. I am mainly interested in writing about the application of latest technology in the cultural scene of Tokyo.