I was interviewed by Ieva Gailiūtė for Lithuanian publication Bored Panda this week. We discussed why people share things on social media without checking their accuracy, and the negative impacts of people being shamed for historic posts.
Some quotes from the interview are below:
When asked why social media users often share their thoughts without thinking twice, Dr. Reilly explained the design of online platforms encourages instant responses and reactions. “The stories, images and posts that feature prominently in our social media timelines are often the most likely to elicit emotional responses from us.”
“The ‘publish then filter’ model of these sites also means our opinions are published immediately with no cooling off period for us to consider whether we want to post them or not,” he added.
When asked whether our online contributions always become permanent, Dr. Reilly told us, “Yes and No. It’s true that social media posts are no longer your property when you share them publicly, or even privately given that they can be shared by others. Even on encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat, people can take screenshots of content deleted by others and share them later.”
“However, there needs to be a motivation for someone to do this,” he continued. “This is why we see so many politicians being shamed for historic (and often deleted) social media posts. The consequences can be severe, ranging from embarrassment, reputational harm, people losing jobs and even worse.” Especially because sometimes, digital content can be made permanent in ways we never imagined. The posts can be changed, modified, or altered into something completely different from what they originally intended to be.
“People should ideally verify the information before they share it, but many don’t,” he said. “However, it should also be noted that people are better at detecting ‘fake news’ and disinformation than they are often given credit for.”
So even when we can essentially say whatever we want online — whether it’s objectively true or not — and not really have very serious consequences for it, we should all strive to make social media a better place. “Read the story before you share it. Satisfy yourself that it is based on an authoritative source. If it makes you feel an extreme emotion then be wary — this is often a sign that it is disinformation designed to polarize audiences,” Dr. Reilly concluded.
Many thanks to Ieva for the invitation. The article can be read here