I think that one of the biggest misconceptions about my project will be that I hate social media and this project is done in protest to the political obstacle course that social media has become as of late. For me, social media has always been a political obstacle course – one that I have successfully navigated in the field of human rights and various campaigns that I’ve worked on in the past. An example of my opinion on the power of social media can be found in this piece I wrote for the Huffington Post. The fact is, I’ve created a whole career using social media.
It is because of these experiences – not in spite of them – that I have seen the influence social media has on our thoughts, opinions, peer groups, and social constructs. Within these experiences with interactions with users from different socioeconomic groups holding a wide-rage of religious and political beliefs, I’ve witnessed how a slight change of message — an emphasis in a shared experience, a sympathetic plea, or a graphic — can appeal to one group while alienating another and vice versa. Knowing how to appeal to the largest group of people is a huge part of any social media campaign.
It is not social networking in and of itself that I am rejecting. It is the power of influence that social networking holds – consciously and not – that I am rejecting for this year. It is the very premise of this project.
Jason Stanley wrote: “When our own identity is tied up with that of a particular group, we may become irrational in these ways. When this occurs, when our group affiliates are such as to lead us to these kind of rigidly held beliefs, we become especially susceptible to propaganda.”
In the age of post-truth and fake news, social media influence makes us even more vulnerable to not only succumbing to these forms of propaganda, but also in unknowingly participating in the spreading of propaganda. In order to eliminate influence from my life while I spend the year learning, it is essential that something that goes as un-factchecked as clickbait, shares, and status updates is eliminated. Without eliminating this medium of consumption in my life, this project becomes void.
Some interesting reads on studies done on social media and influence can be found: