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Nicholas Clark

12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

Anti-Social Media
Today, technology is ever increasing. Technological progress is not always positive for
society. There is a moral objective to try and limit the negative effects new technology can have
on society. The drawbacks of advances are almost never addressed until the problems they create
have become widespread.
This is the same thing that is happening with todays social media. It is estimated that
approximately 1.65 billion people (22% of the world population) now participate in some form
of social media (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Social media can be any sort
of website that enables social interaction between its members. While Facebook, Myspace, and
Twitter are the most well-known, social media also includes things like: gaming websites, virtual
worlds, blogs, and video sites like YouTube (O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson). While it is
impossible to deny that there are positives that come from social media- more learning
opportunities, better access to information, etc., it also seems that the negative aspects of social
media should be just as hard to deny, and these problems should be addressed before they have
an even bigger impact on the world than they already do today. While this list of problems is
seemingly never-ending as new problems seem to arise every day. This paper will address three
major problems we face with social media.
The Spread of False Information
Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be
undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a
man who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the
company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine,
after the patient is dead. Jonathan Swift, The Art of Political Lying

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

Fake news is a growing problem for social media (Facebook), and our society. The fact
that fake news on social media can be a very lucrative business only exacerbates the problem.
With owners of fake news site reportedly making upwards of $30,000 in one month, it does seem
that the problem is going to voluntarily take care of itself (Sydell). This problem needs to be
addressed as it could have numerous disastrous side-effects. Sarah Frier, a journalist for
TheGuardian.com, is worried that consumers will no longer believe real news stories and may
lose interest in news stories altogether if they are not sure which stories are true and which are
fake (Frier).
This has become such a problem on social media, that it has even caught the attention of
President Obama who said that he believes fake news had an impact on the recent election
(Folkenflik and Wertheimer). While there are many who argue that the outcome of the election
would not have changed, the slew of fake news stories this election season undoubtedly favored
one candidate over another. Of the twenty most shared fake election stories, seventeen were
either in favor of Donald Trump or against Hillary Clinton (Frier). The most commonly shared
story had the headline Pope Francis Shocks the World, Endorses Donald Trump, the problem
with this is that not only is it false, but Pope Francis denounced Donald Trump rather than
endorsing him (Frier). Other popular false news stories during the election included: FBI Agent
Who Leaked Clinton E-mails Found Dead, Protestor Paid $3,500 to Disrupt Trump Rally, and
the story about Donald Trump saying if he ever ran for office he would do it as a Republican
because Republicans are the dumbest group of voters in the country (Frier). This election is
said to be the first election where the mass majority of adults got their political news from social
media (Frier).

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

In recent weeks, a new fake news story has surfaced. In this story, Hillary Clinton, Jon
Podesta, and other major players in the Democratic Party have been accused of running a child
sex trafficking ring out of a D.C. pizza shop. The pizza shop in question is known as Comet
Ping-Pong, it is a pizza shop that is family oriented during the day, and turns into a hangout for
twenty-somethings by night. It is alleged that members of the Democratic Party, along with the
owners of the restaurant, have been keeping children locked in the basement and have been
doing unspeakable things to these children, including sexual assault, and even performing satanic
rituals. All of this has been proven to not be true. In fact, the pizza parlor does not even have a
basement, which is where they were said to be keeping the children (Gresko).
These false accusations, which gained momentum and spread like wild fire through
conservative circles on social media, led to one man deciding that he needed to investigate on his
own. On December 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch decided to take the law into his own hands.
Welch drove from Salisbury, NC to Washington D.C. He then entered the Comet Ping Pong
restaurant with a gun. He fired shots but thankfully no one was hit. Customers fled out the front
door as Welch made his way to the back where he thought the children were, only to find that
there were no children to be saved. After a short stand-off with police, Welch was taken into
custody. He is being brought up on federal charges (Gresko).
While fake news is a problem on almost all social media sites, it seems to be a much
bigger problem when it comes to Facebook. This is true because Facebook has a few elements
that worsen the problem. One problem is that the site uses an algorithm to determine what shows
up on an individuals news feed. This algorithm determines what likes and dislikes a user has
and then shows them the things they like while keeping them ignorant of things they do not like
or are not interested in. This means that when a fake news site manufactures a story and releases

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

it on Facebook, it almost instantly goes viral amongst members of whichever party the story
tends to benefit. This also means that users tend to not see the other side of the argument on
certain issues. A user is exposed to a disproportionate number of posts that align with their
political views and almost never sees a rebuttal from the other side unless they intentionally seek
out an opposing view (Frier). Many users are drawn to these stories and want to believe them
because they provoke strong feelings on an issue. This also leads to a higher chance that the
person is going to share the article (Frier).
The motivations to produce fake news stories seem to be very simple. Some people in the
business are doing this for political reasons, but the majority seem to be in it for the money. It
has been reported that some sites make $150,000 a year or more (Sydell). Ad networks like
google pay good money for space on these fake news sites because they know there will be
heavy traffic, and they also know what sort of interests the typical visitors of these site are and
tailor their ads to those preferences. This allows them to maximize their return on investment for
their advertising budget. The more shares a site generates on any story, the more attention they
receive from the ad networks, which in turn leads to more money for the site (Sydell).
One story caught the eye of a reporter named Laura Sydell. This story ran the headline
FBI Agent Who Leaked Clinton E-mails Found Dead. While this story was false, that did not
stop social media users from sharing the story over 500,000 times (Sydell). This story appeared
on a website called DenverGuardian.com. This site had the appearance of a regular local news
site that one might expect to find from a local newspaper, it even had the daily weather.
However, nothing about the site was typical. It was created with WordPress which is a regular
tool typically used by bloggers and small business owners to create websites. WordPress is
simple to use and available to anyone, meaning anyone could make a similar website (Sydell).

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

With the help of a friend in the IT business, Sydell began trying to track down the author
of the story. The username associated with the story was tracked to other fake news websites
with names like NationalReport.net, USAToday.com.co, and WashingtongPost.com.co, these
sites were registered to the same owner through Amazon (Sydell). The owner of these sites was
then tracked down to a town in Southern California. The man named Jestin Coler is the owner of
a company named Disinfomedia. Coler said that he was becoming deeply bothered by the fake
stories that were being passed off by people who call themselves members of the alt-right. Coler
says that when he first started the company the goal was to show how easy it was to pass of fake
media, especially to those on the conservative side of the political spectrum (Sydell).
Coler said that when he first started the company he ran a fake story about food stamp
recipients in Colorado using their benefits to purchase marijuana from legal dispensaries. Coler
said that although this story was false, it spread like wildfire. An incredible amount of people
had read this story and assumed it was true without doing any sort of fact checking or inquiring
about sources. This story became so popular and people were so enraged by thought of this
happening, that a Colorado State Representative even proposed legislation to stop the fraudulent
exchange of food stamps for marijuana (Sydell).
Mark Zuckerberg himself has felt the heat of this debate as to what, if anything should be
done about this fake news on Facebook. Previously Zuckerbergs stance was that Facebook was
merely platform that helps promote free expression, not a publisher. Therefore, the site was not
responsible for what was being posted. His stance seems to have since changed. Just last week
Zuckerberg released a statement on Facebook saying that the site is exploring means of slowing
the spread of fake news on its platform (Chappell).

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

Zuckerberg proposed seven different possible solutions that could help in these efforts.
These include the use of stronger detection through already existing algorithms that will
automatically detect fake news stories, the ability for other users to report news as fake, the use
of third party fact checking organizations like Snopes or Politifact, warning labels that will
appear above known fake news, higher standards for the related articles links on the site,
hindering the financial incentive for fake news sites, and learning from the way that mass media
fact checks their stories. This in turn seems to produce another problem as urgent news may first
have to be validated before being true. Meaning that breaking news stories may not appear on the
site, or may appear with a warning label for a certain amount of time while the story is checked
(Chappell).
While this is an issue that needs to be addressed and taken care of formally, it is an issue
that users of Facebook can help to solve themselves. Instead of taking every news story on their
feed as fact, users should be much more vigilant in the stories they share and what they believe.
Simple fact checking is an easy solution in the day of Google.

Cyberbullying
Bullying builds character like nuclear waste creates superheroes. Its a rare
occurrence and often does much more damage than endowment. Zack W. Van
With the rise of the internet and the ability to remain anonymous while using, has come
cyberbullying. While bullying is not anything new to our society, it seems that the combination
of 80% of the younger generations being involved in social media, less oversight by parents who

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

are not as tech savvy as their children, and the fact that cyberbullying can be done with a much
bigger audience, it is a continuing problem that does not seem to be going away (O'Keeffe and
Clarke-Pearson).
Cyberbullying is defined as, deliberately using social media to spread false,
embarrassing, or hostile information about a person (O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson). With the
emergence of social media has come more cyberbullying. With the development of younger
minds happening more and more through the internet, particularly social media, this is becoming
a very serious problem. Cyber bulling can lead to numerous psychosocial issues including:
depression, anxiety, severe isolation, or even suicide (O'Keeffe and Clarke-Pearson).
Of the 80% of teens who now engage in social media in the United States, fifty percent of
them have said they have been the victim of cyberbullying at some point. While anywhere from
ten to twenty percent say that it is a regularly occurring problem for them. When asked if they
participated in cyberbullying, nearly half of these teens admitted to engaging in the act at some
point (Cyber Bullying Statistics). Cyberbullying disproportionately affects women and
minorities, and is usually perpetrated by white males. With the tone of the recent election it
seems to have gotten even worse. Per Kate Miltner, a PhD student at USC, The tenor of
discourse that Trump and his associates have been engaging in has emboldened some people to
say we are in charge now and we can say whatever we want (Solon).
Kids who are most likely to be victims of cyberbullying are often perceived as outsiders,
and because of this are seen as weak, the people doing the bullying know that they are not likely
to receive help from their peers. These children are usually seen as depressed or anxious and
usually have low self-esteem to begin with. Sometimes they are seen as annoying or

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

antagonizing and this can cause others to bully them also (U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services).
Children who are being cyberbullied very rarely report it to anyone. There are various
reasons for this, most of the time these kids are afraid of being seen as weak, they are afraid if
they tell it will only get worse, sometimes they feel like no one really cares anyway so there is no
point in telling anyone, and sometimes they can just be embarrassed and would rather not discuss
it. Whatever the reason for this, it is believed that much of cyberbullying goes unreported (U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services). This is alarming because it seems that the number
of reported instances is already very high.
With bullying happening online instead of in person, this offers a whole new set of
problems. Now instead of bullying someone in front of a small group of peers, it is being
broadcast over the internet in real time for the world to see. While bullying can already be
socially isolating, cyberbullying exacerbates this problem. Now not only does the victim feel
isolated from a small group, but feels isolated from the whole world. It can feel like the whole
world is against them when many people start participating or encouraging the bullying on social
media. On top of being broadcast over the internet in real time, it is also being saved and
available for later viewing. It may even show up in a Google search (Solon).
Cyberbullying has been protected under the guise of free speech. John Perry Barlow said
in his famous A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, We cannot separate the air
that chokes from the air upon which wings beat. By this he is saying that to limit free-speech
when it comes to things like cyberbullying, is dangerous because if we start limiting this kind of
speech, who knows what else would be limited (Solon).

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

I disagree with this rationale. By limiting things like hate speech, we are not limiting
freedom of speech. I think the same goes for cyberbullying, things like hate speech are not
protected by the first amendment because the consequences of this kind of speech can be very
damaging for the victim (Cornell University Law School). Social media sites like Facebook
already have a terms of service policy, in section 3 labeled Safety rule six and seven state
You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user. You will not post content that: is hate speech,
threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous
violence (Facebook). It seems to me that even Facebook disagrees with Mr. Barlows statement.
By letting cyberbullying continue, you are creating new problems. I think author Whitney
Phillips said it best, When you cede the floor to the most violent, bigoted contributors that tends
to marginalize and silence members of the group they are targeting. Antagonism silences and
that infringes peoples free speech far more than telling some asshole to shut his mouth.
(Solon).

Facebook Depression
Comparison is the thief of Joy -Teddy Roosevelt
Through recent studies, social media has been linked to depression. This has been coined
Facebook Depression. It is believed that this depression is the result of constantly comparing
ones own, often boring, life to the highlight reels of their friends life which they see on
Facebook. Obviously most people do not share the boring, or negative moments of their life on
social media. However, many users of social media report that they constantly compare their

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

own lives to the social media profiles of their friends. This can lead some people to depression
because they feel like their life is not as interesting or as eventful as other peoples (Walton).
This is the result of the narcissistic environment that social media creates. When on social
media most people try to convey the most positive image of themselves. They try to put out an
image that they believe is what others want to see. Therefore, people are not going to share
things in their life that go against this image that they have worked so hard to create.
Researchers in Germany have found that this behavior leads to a sort of coping
mechanism for those who are feeling inferior to their social media acquaintances. They call this
the Envy Coping Plan. This is when users of social media begin to feel inferior and to combat
this they begin intensifying their attempts to make themselves look better than their friends on
social media. As one can imagine, this can lead to a sort of downward spiral in which the coping
mechanism begins to kick in from user to the next as each one begins to feel inferior to the next
(Krasnova, Wenninger and Widjaja).
In a recent study conducted by the Happiness Institute of Denmark, nearly 1,100
participants agreed to abstain from social media for one week. After a week, they were asked to
report on their feelings. When asked about their levels of happiness most participants reported
that they were significantly happier without social media in their lives. Along with this they also
reported lower levels of stress and higher satisfaction from joyful events in their own lives
(Walton). Similar results were reported in a study done at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.
In this study, participants were texted five times throughout the day and asked to report their
current mood along with the length of time it has been since using social media. The study found
that the more often the participants used social media, the more likely it was for them to be in
bad mood (Kross, Verduyn and Demiralp).

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

Depression can also come into play when users start comparing their own social media
profile to that of others. Not in the sense of where they have been or what they have done, but
rather they start comparing themselves to their friends and start using certain aspects of social
media to measure their own worth. They start seeing those people who have more friends, or
more likes on their posts as more valuable than them. Facebook becomes a sort of popularity
contest where your worth is measured in likes and friends (Tanner).
Conclusion
I do not feel that social media is an entirely negative thing. The positive effects on society
should not be downplayed. Social media has allowed people to connect people they would have
otherwise never met or may have lost contact with. It allows people to connect with others who
they share things in common with like political beliefs. Business marketing and networking has
been completely revolutionized through social media. These are just a few of the positive effects
that social media has had on our society.
I do not feel that social media is something we should do away with. However, I do feel
that some aspects of social media need to be dealt with. If proponents of so called freedom of the
internet feel that the internet can be a positive in our society, then they should also be able to
acknowledge that an unchecked internet can be dangerous to our society. For this reason, we
must find a sort of happy medium in which people are still free to express themselves on the
internet, but where users are informed about the news they are consuming, and are free from
relentless cyberbullying.
As far as depression, I think most users would be well served to realize that what they see
on a persons social media profile does not accurately depict their life. Just like everyone else,

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

their social media friends have their tough times in life too. Its just that most of them dont
choose to share it. The faster these users realize this, the much better off they will be. If they
cant seem to come to terms with this and are continuing to feel depressed, then maybe social
media is not for them.

Nicholas Clark
12/1/2016
Soc 203-01

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