Welcome back to Conversations with Karla! In case you missed it, last week we talked about the social media scene during the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, we’ll meet Peyton Wasileski, a third-semester biology major, to talk about how the spread of information on social media has affected our generation’s judgment.
Today, news spreads like wildfire. Sometimes social media grabs hold of worldly occurrences before news stations do. Inevitably, this can result in a mass spread of misinformation.
When asked about her initial response to seeing a recent news story pop up on her social media feed, Wasileski responded that her instinct is to research and hear from many sources to come to a conclusion on her own. “Social media only shows one side and exaggerates. I want to know what I’m talking about before I start supporting one side or another,” she said.
The phrase “don’t believe everything you see on social media,” as repetitive as it may sound to some, is vital advice. According to Wasileski’s perspective, there’s an even divide between users who do their research before coming to a conclusion and users who only need to see a single video before their mind is made up. That being said, she also explained how there needs to be further education on identifying a reliable source on social media.
She gave the example of, “Someone like the Kardashians will repost something and you’ll see a swarm of people say ‘That’s the side I want to be on, that must be the right side to be on.’” She further explained how neither the Kardashians nor the people supporting their point of view are doing enough research. Then, when someone else with such a reputation comes along and displays an opposing viewpoint, the audience shifts their praise to them and disregards the previous “hero.” This messy arena makes finding reliable information on social media that much more difficult.
Continuing on the topic of celebrities and news sharing, Wasileski and I discussed our opinions on social media influencers debating global issues on their page as well as our thoughts on the creation of accounts solely for talking about one specific topic. “I think they need to be really careful because of their audience size,” Wasileski says, “the biggest thing is making sure what they’re spreading is true.”
Hearing this reminded me of a dilemma public figures claim to face: if they share their opinions, they’re going to get canceled, but if they don’t they’ll still get canceled. From what few examples I’ve personally seen on social media, some influencers are hesitant or even fearful of sharing their stance on their platform because they don’t want to be called out for being misinformed. If they remain silent, however, people will ask what is the point of them having a platform at all.
Wasileski responded to this by saying that this dilemma depends on the issue at hand. She used the Black Lives Matter ‘Black-Out Day’ as an example, saying that if a peer didn’t post a black square, it would cause a stir within that smaller community, but celebrities didn’t face that kind of backlash. Now, with the conflict between Israel and Palestine, it is the opposite. Those with bigger platforms have more of an expectation to post about their opinions on this issue than regular people.
I then asked Wasileski if she thinks that people will look to celebrities or influencers specifically as a source of information. She responded by saying, “100%. I think that people will wait to form an opinion until someone they look up to shares theirs.”
Wasileski’s piece of advice to people who idolize celebrities or politicians is to remember that “you really don’t know them.” Remembering this may help someone be more mindful about the people they look up to or look to for information. At the close of our conversation,Wasileski urged people to be sure that they are educating themselves with different sources and forming an opinion on their own.
That’s all for this week’s Conversations with Karla! Remember that you’re loved. See you next week when we’ll be discussing consumer culture as a result of social media.