ASSIGNMENT many matters suffers from ignorance, instability, and sensitivity

ASSIGNMENT (MINI RESEARCH) 15%

Is social media to blame for the spread of riots?

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            Public opinion on many matters suffers from ignorance, instability, and sensitivity to the way a certain question is worded. This, however, does not imply that people are ignorant, unstable, or gullible, only that most people do not find it worth their while to spend the amount of time thinking about politics or economics that they would rather spend on their jobs, families, and friends. Moreover, just because people do not think much about politics or issues which do not concern them, does not mean that democracy is impossible, only that it can work best when people are given relatively simple, clear-cut choices. A distinct way to explicate these choices would be such as to choose between Democrats or Republicans, one presidential candidate and another, or if gay marriage should be legalized in every state or otherwise. Public issues usually constitute three main issues which are political, economical and social issues and opinions regarding these issues constantly differ from one individual to another. There is not one big “public” that has one clear “opinion.” We cannot talk about “what the public wants” or “the public demands” There are many public- people who are men or women, whites or blacks, young or old, religious or nonreligious- who have views about what the community should do. The views of these many public, and of many categories within each public, vary enormously in accuracy, clarity, and consistency.

            Even if people have heard of the matter, how we word the question can dramatically affect the answer we receive. Suppose we want to know whether the public believes that the federal government should provide housing for people. One poll asked whether they agreed or disagreed with a one-sided statement (“The federal government should see to it that all people have adequate housing”). A majority agreed. In the second example, people were given a choice between two statements, one favoring a federal housing policy and the other favoring individual responsibility respectively. Given this choice, a majority now opposed federal housing programs. In the third example, the question was repeated, but this time with the individual-responsibility option mentioned first. Now more than 70 percent of the respondents opposed federal housing programs. Obviously just altering the order in which people are presented with options affects which option they choose and thus what “public opinion” is on housing programs. It is more difficult than one might suppose to know what the public thinks. We are so inundated these days with public-opinion polls that perhaps we assume that they reflect public opinion. That may be true on a few rather simple and widely discussed issues, but it is not true for most matters on which people are required to act upon. The best pollsters know the limits of their methods, and citizens should know them as well.

            The more people are active in and knowledgeable about politics, economics and circulating issues, the more weight their opinions carry in these affairs. Example,for most of us, politics, ranks way down on the list of things to think about, well below families, jobs, health, sweethearts, entertainment, and sports. Some people, nonetheless, arepolitical activists who come to know as much about politics as the rest of us know about batting averages, soap operas, and car repair. Not only do these activists, or political elites, know more about politics than the rest of us, they think differently about it- they have different views and beliefs. The government attends more to the elite views than to the popular views, at least on many matters. One important elite is the mass-communication media. The media- especially the national television networks, the news magazines, and not to forget social media applications- are shaped in part by the attitudes of the people who have been attracted into leading positions in journalism. The growths of the Internet and blogs have brought many more people into the ranks of political elites. Thousands of persons who most people never knew existed have acquired political influence by devoting their time to compiling facts and making arguments on the web, there to be read by people who mostly agree with them. This probably intensified the split between the two prominent factions in the discussion because each side now hasmore ways to take possession of and strengthen their policy views. There had always been an adversarial relationship between those who govern and those who write, but events of recent decades have, as we shall see, made that conflict especially keen.

            People take pride in having their own opinions- about politics as well as about music and movies. “Nobody tells me what to think,” they say. But these same people lament the power of television and advertising: “the media manipulates the public,” they argue, or “Television sells candidates the same way it sells soap.” These views are a bit contradictory: If we all believe we decide for ourselves what to think, then we can’t all be the puppets of Madison Avenue. The facts are different from these popular conceptions. Our beliefs, be it regarding political, economical, or social issues, are not entirely the result of independent thought and study; they reflect a variety of forces, some of which we may not even be aware. To understand how we see the world, we must look at what has been learned about the origin of the attitudes. Scholars call the process by which young people amass such attitudes, ‘socialization,’ be it political, economical or social.

            How an individual perceives something is dependent on several factors.One of those factors is the role of the family. The views of young people do not merely reflect what they are thought by their parents. Recent evidence suggests that genetics strongly shape these views. When we compare how identical twins (who are genetically the same) feel about an established issue with how fraternal twins (who share only half of their genes) think about the topic, we discover that identical twins are much more likely to have similar views even if they were raised apart. About one-third of our political views come from genes and only about one-tenth from family influences. Children are more independent of their parents in their policy preferences. An alternative factor would be the effects of religion. How the family forms and transmits attitudes is not well understood, but one crucial factor seems to be its religious traditions. A religious tradition that emphasizes salvation through faith alone and the need to avoid personal dissipation and worldly sin is likely to imbue a different way of looking at worldly issues than one that has an optimistic view of human nature, stresses the obligation to do good works, and is concerned as much about social justice as personal rectitude. If they think that the Bible should be taken literally as the word of God, they are more likely than those without this belief to oppose abortion, less likely to think that men and women should have equal roles, more likely to favor the ban of gays in the military and less likely to self-identify as Democrats.

            Other factors constitute education. It is hard to think of a more powerful effect on public opinion than education, especially college and postgraduate schooling. Studies going back more than half a century, show that attending college affects an individual’s attitudes. These changes persist after graduation. One reason may be the influence of professors. There are other factors at work as well. Students teach each other through campus organizations, political movements, and social contacts. Much of college learning, even when thought in a politically neutral way, explains what might be wrong with the world as it is, offers models or ideals by which the world might be improved, and encourages critical thinking. Today, the many people with college and postgraduate degrees have come to be called a new class, one that differs from the traditional middle class. Members of the first group often live in big cities, have jobs that involve manipulating symbols, rarely attend religious service and have liberal views. Those in the other group often live in small town or suburbs, have jobs in business or farming, often attend religious services and have conservative views.

An individual’s race also affects his or her public opinion. Whites and blacks differ profoundly over busing to achieve racially balanced schools and the right of individuals to discriminate in housing sales, as well as differing over nonracial matters as the death penalty, increased spending for national defense, and national health insurance. A majority of blacks believe that as a group they are better off today than they were 10 years ago and that their children’s opportunities will be better yet. Curiously and perhaps ominously- it is among better-off blacks that one finds the greatest skepticism about American society. Blacks holding professional jobs are much more likely than black manual laborers to believe that whites get unfair advantages and to say that they have experienced discrimination. Continued economic progress by blacks is no guarantee that black attitudes towards American society will change. The fact that people live in different regions also affects and individual’s opinion. Everybody believes that northerners and southerners disagree about politics. That is true- for some people and some issues. Because the racial mix and religious preferences of regions differ, one must look at people of the same race and religion to understand the effect of living in a certain region. If, for example, you look only at white Protestants, you will find that those living in the South are not very different in their political outlook from those living in the North or West on economic issues but are a good deal more conservative on social issues (such as abortion or homosexual rights).  Anyone who has lived in both regions knows that the southern lifestyle differs from that of the Northeast. The South has, on the whole, been more accommodating to business enterprise and less accommodating to organized labor than the Northeast.

In sum, these factors affect the public opinion. How exactly does this relate to social media and how does that eventually progress to protesting then riots?

Ten years ago, an essay about the media and worldly issues would have been about how newspapers and television influence events. No more. In 2008, half of all beings used the Internet to get news, be it the information is from a valid source or an invalid one. They read not only blogs but look them up on Facebook and YouTube, and answer statements to them on the Internet and through Twitter.Today there is a powerful new challenge to the national media: blogs that appear on the Web via the Internet. Blogs, of course, are run by individuals, are entirely unregulated, and can circulate their own mistakes. But being numerous and highly competitive, they check media stories rapidly and often. There is inevitably a process of selection, editing, and emphasis; this process reflects, to some degree, the way in which the media are organized, the kinds of audiences they hope to attract, and the preferences and opinions of the members of the media. Social media is just a tool.  It’s a powerful one, but a tool nonetheless.  It can be used in good ways and bad ways, just like a hammer or a baseball bat.

Over the past few years, social media has had a significant effect on the communication, knowledge, and public reaction to assorted topics in our society today. People tend to use social media to express their public opinions, agreements and disagreements, and dissatisfaction for all the world to see.Social media has been a great addition to our society today in helping spread news more quickly and makes us communicate more efficiently, but the negatives overshadow the positives. Specific types of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have been a catalyst to giving people the opportunities to expose topics and voice their opinions to the public eye. We see athletes, celebrities, and politicians being affected by this every day. In our lives today, everyone has lost their right to privacy due to the expansions and advances of social media. Whenever a tweet is posted on Twitter or a picture is posted on either Instagram or Facebook, many people will emphasize their opinion and sometimes create negative views that can hurt the person being talked about or viewed. We have seen in many major topics in the news, reporters and writers will blast certain topics out of proportion. News stations even affect social media because theyoften use posts in their reporting. Thus, people will continue to voice their views on social media, causing its influence to continually grow. Social Media has the ability to violate our personal privacy and expose the negative interpretations on people and topics in society.

            The difference in opinion vary from an individual to another and the factors stated previously, contributes to how the individual expresses his or her opinion or dissatisfaction of a topic. Yes, we know that people can behave differently in crowds.  We are social animals and will always be influenced by the dynamics of a social environment.Crowd psychology or group mentality doesn’t mean that we should overlook culpability for either the destructive behavior of the individuals or the inherent issues and systems in society that underlie social unrest-both in the ability to provide opportunities and deliver structure.  Social media may have accelerated the pace of information travel, bringing groups together faster, but it did not put bricks and fire bombs into the hands of the looters.  Social media did not create the anger or sense of powerlessness against authorities.  It did not create the heightened emotions of the group, crowd leaders, the adrenaline that comes from a sense of danger and risk, the lack of empathy for others, or the sense of no consequences.  Emotion may be contagious, but social media is not.What social media does do is change the sense of agency – how people view their ability to interact with the world.  It changes how we expect to give and get information.  Most importantly, it makes us aware when others act.  The comparisons to the Egyptian revolution are inevitable, but let’s not get stuck looking only at the violence.  Social media also facilitates the rapid response of society and based on global discourse, it’s clear that overthrowing oppression is good and senseless destruction with no clear goal other than expressing rage is not.

            Social media platforms are another way that many people access news online. A majority of individuals receive daily news on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Of these, Facebook is by far the most frequently cited social media platform for getting news. When it comes to trust, many people who receive news from these social media platforms consume it with skepticism. Social media news consumers do not generally trust the news they see there. As a result, they consider a variety of factors to adjudicate whether a particular story can be trusted. The most important are their perceptions of the original news source and also the person who posted the item. What drives trust on social media? These networks present a variety of issues. People are no longer coming to a news brand when they are on Facebook or Twitter. Content from many sources is mixed, and news is only one kind of content a user may encounter in a given visit.  This means people in social media are no longer consuming news in “news sessions.” News instead is just one form of content that is part of a larger social flow, and it is being encountered as part of connecting with people more generally. The news has also been “atomized” in social media, meaning that people are encountering one story from a news source mixed in with content from many other sources, quite unlike watching a newscast or reading a magazine or newspaper, where all the content comes from the same source.

            It’s safe to say that every being has heard the expression ‘everyone is entitled to their opinion.’ Perhaps he or she has even said it to themselves, maybe to head off an argument or bring one to a close. However, this statement is no longer true. You are not entitled to your opinion. You are only entitled to what you can argue for. A bit harsh? Perhaps, but most people are not taught how to construct and defend an argument– and to recognize when a belief has become indefensible. The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” – and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. This attitude feeds, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.

Firstly, what’s an opinion?

You can’t really argue about the first kind of opinion. I’d be silly to insist that you’re wrong to think strawberry ice cream is better than chocolate. The problem is that sometimes we implicitly seem to take opinions of the second and even the third sort to be unarguable in the way questions of taste are. Perhaps that’s one reason (no doubt there are others) why enthusiastic amateurs think they’re entitled to disagree with climate scientists and immunologists and have their views “respected.”

So what does it mean to be “entitled” to an opinion?

If “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion” just means no-one has the right to stop people thinking and saying whatever they want, then the statement is true, but fairly trivial. No one can stop you saying that vaccines cause autism, no matter how many times that claim has been disproven.

But if ‘entitled to an opinion’ means ‘entitled to have your views treated as serious candidates for the truth’ then it’s pretty clearly false. This too is a distinction that tends to get blurred.

It is a plague that has consumed our society. People only need a small, irrelevant portion of information regarding any topic and they will believe they are a well seasoned expert, an intellectual deity of supreme knowledge and wisdom. They will then speak their tiny, portions of information that are skewed by subjective filters and distortions, and simply recite an altered version that fits their belief system to others in the form of opinion, but believe they are gifting the listener with nuggets of enlightenment and profound advice and knowledge. Most riots are usually just incidents sparked by social media because many remain apathetic when it comes to fact checking.It was of course, more convenient to share supposed “facts” and “information” related to the incident on social media rather than laboriously verifying the authenticity and credibility of such information and its sources.Many are after all, compelled to quickly share stories and information by claiming that they heard it from someone who was there and when you ask that someone, they spontaneously state that they had actually heard it from someone who was there and so forth.