Law in the Internet Society

-- By KjSalameh - 09 Oct 2020

The Polarizing Effect of Mainstream Media Habits

People used to rely on news outlets to know what's happening around the world; now, social media has become the predominant source of information on a daily basis.[_Endnote 1_] For example, people used to read articles to determine 'what' is happening, and then think on 'why' it happened and 'how' to feel about it. Now, with convenience localized to devices constantly connected to the internet, this process is becoming reversed. The politics people are partial to already define 'what' has happened for them. This is a product of the increasing bipolarization in society. To a large degree most people in the U.S. already know what they will believe and what they will not accept, establishing a dangerous dichotomy of thought. Along these lines, the convenience of social media platforms such as Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter - the content of which is continually shaped by unseen forces and algorithms that prey on our technological footprints - has fed into this dichotomy.

Now most follow their news to better understand the 'how'--how should they feel? How should they react? What fits the narrative of the rhetoric that has already been accepted? The networking effect of social media platforms makes it easy to bolster this mindset by supporting biases rather than allowing new information to broaden insights. For many, this may funnel social media users to limited perspectives wrought with misinformation.[_Endnote 2_] Here lies the ultimate danger of social media without appropriate regulation: the guided polarization of digital news exasperates the existing divisions in society.[_Endnote 3_]

Social Media and the Masses

The idea of external influences directing people towards belief and action is not new. Le Bon, who wrote on on crowd psychology, argued that since the dawn of time humanity has always been under the influence of religious, political, and social illusions.[_Endnote 4_] He argued that due to these influences, the masses are ingrained to seek out an illusion to grasp under any and all circumstances. Accordingly, the masses typically flock to whichever rhetorician wets their appetites. Le Bon may have written his seminal work at the turn of the 20th century, but his words seem applicable now more than ever. Social media platforms have become a universal outlet to which many Americans grasp onto their illusions, often serving as shielding refusal to diversifying one’s perspectives. This new digital arrangement to information narrows visions of reality and widens divisions – from one another and, perhaps even, from truth. Truth itself has become fragmented, relying on the whims of the reader. While it is natural for our experiences to dictate our way of thinking, the problem with polarization in social media today is that it leaves little to no room for genuine discourse – not because it is no longer possible, but because the choice to avoid it has simply become easier.

What social media offers is a steady and consistent affirmation from one’s peers who think similarly. Social media is intrinsically designed to connect people with others who they want to be connected with. The consequence of this herding effect is that when it comes to political news, flawed logic and misinformation often go unchecked. For many Americans, social media has provided a great convenience of getting the assurance desired from others who already agree with their perspectives. Productive speculation and positive self-doubt have become a foreign process. Many people then become so encouraged by their opinions that they begin to confuse them for facts.

In order to bridge the gaps in this society, it is crucial to understand the diverse markup of a communal struggle for survival.

Process of Polarization and Potential for Progress

Social media and similar digital platforms largely influence thought through targeted advertisements. Every time a person swallows the mental pill on Facebook, Reddit, and the like, the databases on those sites store their personal and private information to their advantage, keeping close track of what they search and what their interests are. This dangerous misuse of consumer privacy and the self-selective filter bubbles social media promotes work to keep the masses addicted. People connect with others who have beliefs aligning to their own, 'like' their posts, and share their pictures, and without second thought allow behemoth companies to track personal information and internet behavior tendencies. Social media works by continuing to offer exposure to interests; unfortunately this benefit double-edged. Since people are more likely to accept ideas that align with pre-existing beliefs, and thus continue to scroll down social media feeds, the posts that pop up first tend to be the news sources tailored to existing confirmation biases.

For society to progress more efficiently towards unity, depolarizing social media would be a good start. To do this, one option is to introduce legislation and regulation that would prevent companies from providing overly filtered access to misguided illusions. Of course, this protective measure would need to be treated with a careful deference to free speech. Creating a safer social media environment does not have to necessarily entail censorship.

It is not enough to fault the masses alone. If Americans read more articles from various news sources, share those with friends that hold similar viewpoints, and create further connections to others with entirely different perspectives, undoing the process of polarized information that has so heavily influenced social media and negatively impacted society becomes more achievable. But to be truly successful, re-envisioning the digital age should target the unseen as much as the obvious.


[1] See, e.g. Gottfried and Shearer, News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2016, Pew Research Center, May 2016 ( (finding 62% of U.S. adults obtain news through social media, with a higher trend among younger demographics).

[2] See generally Mitchell et al, Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media Are Less Engaged, Less Knowledgeable (

[3] The recent rise, use, and subsequent fall of Parler exemplify the imminent dangers posed by more divisive uses of social media. See, e.g. Childers, Parler: New social media platform with no fact-checking rises in popularity, ABC News, Nov. 2020 (

[4] For more, See Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, 1895.

-- KjSalameh - 09 Oct 2020

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r3 - 23 Jan 2021 - 20:46:08 - KjSalameh
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