Social media has allowed civic participation and a feeling of engagement during the pandemic
Pandemic, protests, and an upcoming election: in an era of fundamental civil upheaval and social unrest, the ability to make your voice heard is more valuable than ever.
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Social media has become a predominant source for news over the last decade, with almost 62% of American adults saying they use some form of social media to get their news, with 18% doing so frequently. Now, social media is becoming a platform for grassroots movements and social reform.
Social media has integrated itself into most walks of everyday life, and the news is no exception. While many use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to stay updated, more and more platforms, including Instagram, are being used to organize rallies, share information, post safety tips, and speak out against injustice by giving a voice to marginalized populations. Many of these platforms make it easier for you to contact your local representatives and stay engaged in civic affairs, even while social distancing. Most social media outlets encourage voting and voter registration as part of their efforts to stay engaged with the democratic process. Community-based organization has become a hallmark of protests and social advocacy during the pandemic, allowing people to stay connected and up to date on issues affecting them and their town. Whether through socializing digitally with friends and family, spreading awareness on social media, staying civically engaged with the democratic process, and discovering new ways to learn and work, 53% of Americans have said that social media has been a necessity for them during the pandemic. During a time where distance seems paramount, social media manages to bring many of us together in unprecedented ways.
While social media can be useful for staying civically engaged, there are a number of harmful practices which pose a significant hindrance to successfully utilizing it as a credible news or sharing platform. Doxing (posting someone's personal information online), trolling (deliberate and offensive provocation and spam), or "flooding" via an overflow of misinformation, are all ways social media can create opportunities for civic oppression. Beyond user tactics, the companies running these platforms also have faced controversies concerning the sharing of personal user information, and the debate surrounding political censorship and data collection has far from peaked.
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