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The Negative Effects Of Social Media On Personal Freedom

The use of social media has risen exponentially in the past decade, and with it the impact of its ubiquity has become evident. Although social media can undoubtedly be a positive vehicle for self expression and social interaction, it is largely restrictive of personal liberty and subsequently does more harm than good. Though this applies primarily to the individual, the negative effects of social media on personal freedom extends to interpersonal relationships and can therefore negatively affect groups as well. The convergence of audiences and associated privacy concerns on social media sites like Facebook can result in self-censorship, while the inbuilt filtering systems create a sense of censorship. Data collection and surveillance make it…show more content…
Many social media sites use actual censors in order to remove content deemed inappropriate (Sandvig 2015, p. 2). This raises important questions about power and power relations on social media, however what is perhaps a less obvious concern is the impact of the algorithms that determines which users see what content. Eli Pariser (2011) introduced the concept of “filter bubbles”, where platforms like Facebook shows only what it is believed the user wants to see. Consequently the user may not be shown anything oppositional or challenging to their world view. Presumably, this filtering is done with the aim of improving user experience in mind, rather than coming from a place of ill intentions, as seeing only what one wants to see should hypothetically create a more pleasant time on a social media platform. However, the filtering becomes especially problematic considering that social media is more and more becoming a primary source of news (Pariser 2011, p. 66 cited in Willson 2013, p. 218). The inextricability of the freedom of press and democracy (Karlekar & Becker 2014, p. 32) demonstrates that it is important for an individual to be privy to a range of perspectives. This matter is further complicated by the matter of user knowledge and consent. Often users are unaware that this filtering is happening, and in…show more content…
Data mining has four stages: collection, aggregation, interrogation and prediction (de Zwart et al 2014, p. 715-719). As with filtering, this process more often than not happens without the knowledge of users and regardless, it is “almost impossible” to prevent (p. 716). The importance of user consent has already been touched upon, as has the implications for the balance of power between social media platforms and the users. As social media implicitly exists for users to interact with one another , for the power to remain out of the hands of the users is especially problematic as it in many ways contradicts the supposed purpose of social media (Baym 2015, p. 1-2). More specific to data aggregation and interrogation, the power imbalance works against the freedom of expression and instead restricts the ability of the individual to control their own identity and the way it is presented. Data aggregation, or the collection of data over time, has no way or retaining context for specific actions or interactions (de Zwart et al 2014, p. 716). The previously discussed context collapse comes into play once more, as the way a individual may present themself in interactions with various other users may form what appears to be contradictory information. The interrogation of this data then becomes the
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