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A Utopian Dystopia: The Dark Side of Social Media


It was not that long ago that thinking of a dark side to social media seemed to pale in comparison to the real dangers lurking in the ether of the internet, such as the 'Dark Web' a back door on the internet that handles countless nefarious ongoings.

Parents overly worried about their children's usage of social media were almost mocked and seen as a unique inability to cope with change, relegating these parents to a status similar to 'Anti-vaxxers' as paranoid without reason. I fell into this category of thought, believing that ultimately any and all new technologies with the capacity for great good would be used in this manner, even if there were some exceptions to this. 

However, increasingly as social media permeates the very fabric of society and human relations, the cracks begin to appear on the veneer on people's capacity for humanity. This first became apparent seeing the increase of cases of cyber-bullying, at first minor but increasingly numerous and driving the bullied further into corners. 

Parallels have already been drawn between the advent of social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter, and a distinct increase in rates of self-harm and suicides amongst American children and Teenagers of 'Gen-Z', but I wonder what other parallels might be drawn by looking at the rates of gun violence and radicalization of youths within education institutions.

As the social 'norms' are advertised further, those fitting outside this mold find communities of their own. This in itself can and has been a wonderful thing for those looking for support, but it also provides the same gathering for less desirable groups. Just take a look at the Neo-nazi movement around the globe, over 70 years since the end of the second world war and there are Nazis again. 

While social networks were not set up as a tool for it, they act as a gathering place for radical thinking counter to the progress of general society and allow further generation exposure to these concepts and ideas. 

Personally, the first time I became aware of some of the dark corners within these well-known social platforms was Tumblr's 2018 restriction on certain content. This ban was enacted after apple banned Tumblr from its App Store due to concerns of its NSFW/ adult content, as despite many users partaking in Tumblr's hosting of 18+ content, there were a darker group sharing child pornography. 

As concerning as this is, Tumblr is undoubtedly not the first to encounter similar issues. I believe it is fair to say it will not be the last either. Despite the very good reason for the banning of adult content Tumblr faced a backlash from its users over the blanket ban and lost many of its users due to it.

This just illustrates the issue that tech companies face with their platforms as precise moderation of content is not possible yet, meaning there is an inability to truly tell the difference between bad and good content. This is perhaps due to the fact that many social network algorithms are designed to keep attention no matter the content for the purpose of advertising as opposed to the protection of their users from harmful influence and manipulation.  

Facebook And Twitter are beginning to suffer the consequences and are suggesting that they're capable of monitoring and regulating themselves to moderate hate speech and 'fake news', is it possible to achieve what many countries still cannot?

While social media acts as a utopia for many, a meeting place for friends and family, and even for meeting new and interesting people, anyone who takes but a moment to put down the screen of this 'utopia' can see it acting as a blind for the degradation of society into a warped dystopia, were people can no longer converse face to face and nefarious forces lurk to draw in impressionable and vulnerable people isolated by the tool meant to connect them. 

In this, I think it is fair to say, Social media exists as an oxymoron, to connect by being disconnected, to isolate those attempting to socialize. This is perhaps why many of silicon valley, despite working in tech and social media, discourage or adamantly ban the use of social media within their households and for their children especially.

Just take a look at the Netflix documentary 'The Social Dilemma' or social songbird's earlier article on it, for proof of this and the growing concerns surrounding the ability of social networks to self-regulate. At this point, I believe it is required that social media giants bow their heads and allow government restrictions. 

Yes, censorship is a worry and can be seen as a restriction of free speech, but it is a restriction of hate speech and 'fake news' that take precedent as it can only continue to degrade society's tenuous unity. Of course, this will not be the end of extremism or radicalism but perhaps then social media can begin to fulfill its true purpose of uniting not dividing. 

The 2016 US presidential election 'hacking' scandal, while not to the fullest degree can easily depict the ability to use social networks in a perfectly legal manner but for dark purposes. This doesn't even begin to take into account Myanmar and the horrifying effect that social media had on the country's Muslim population. For tech dubbed a network to disconnect a whole group of society just shows the desperate need for regulations. Even if it means a few inappropriate posts are removed, even if it embarrasses a businessman turned president, even if it means keeping some thoughts to one's self, surely the cost is worth it. 

Many people's concerns with social media lie with how they use our data, but I argue the bigger issue is how social media and its dark corners use us. 

Jack Glidewell- Editor at Social Songbird

A self-taught writer and news enthusiast, with a deep love for new and exciting developments around the globe. Aspiring Novel writer and traditional and pop Japanese culture lover.

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A Utopian Dystopia: The Dark Side of Social Media Reviewed by Jack Glidewell on Friday, December 18, 2020 Rating: 5
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