Process Blog, PUB101 Assignments

Process Post #9: The Political Consequences of Social Media

As a third year Communication major I have been taught many times about the significance of digital tracking, trails and surveillance that exist in today’s society. Although these discussions often take place in a negative light and with undertones of “you should be scared”, I have yet to find myself genuinely concerned about being surveilled. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t *like* the idea of my every click and movement online because recorded and my online presence being manipulated for the sake of capitalism, but I have a “bigger picture” view when it comes to being scared of it. I can summarize this into one kind of question;

Why would they care what I do in particular? What’s important about ME in the grand scheme of the Internet? 

Although the concept of me being surveilled doesn’t shock me or scare me anymore, I think the Internet scares me in different ways. The comfortable (for lack of a better term) understanding I have about surveillance and tracking comes from the ability to critically think that has been developed thanks to the SFU School of Communication. I know that I, as an individual, understand what is happening and the consequences, but I’m not so sure about others. 

For one of my classes this semester the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” was assigned as a reading. Although I definitely would’ve watched it in my free time anyway, this movie really opened my eyes to how little other people might know about things like dataveillance and tracking. While most of the concepts they went over in the documentary were old news to me, one thing that stood out and genuinely provoked a feeling of concern in me was the notion that the Internet has polarized political opinions more. This isn’t something I had given much thought to prior. As most people have felt recently, elections are not something that should be shrugged off. I’m a firm believer that politics should be a small part of everyone’s lives. After all, it impacts all of us and anyone who has the time to say “I don’t vote” or “I don’t care about policies” has a unique kind of privilege in today’s political landscape. 

Therefore, the idea that a contributing reason for the severe polarization that has been happening, particularly in the USA, is the mere existence of social media is definitely a new take I haven’t considered or discussed a lot. I can definitely understand why this might be the case, as on TikTok and Twitter I see a lot of far left and far right, and not a lot of centrist (particularly with gen z). 

So, although I don’t find the concept of being tracked online to be particularly scary, I think the political consequences of those who haven’t been taught to look at everything they see online with a critical lens can be particularly dangerous. Another good documentary example of this is The Great Hack which outlines the workings of Cambridge Analytica and how they basically got Trump elected and Brexit approved by feeding fake news to the most gullible, and that to me is the most pressing political and internet-related issue facing us today.