Social Media: Crash Course Navigating Digital Information

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Social Media: Crash Course Navigating Digital Information #10

Hi, I’m John Green, and this is Crash Course: Navigating Digital Information. So we’re going to talk about your social media feed today, but first: At the beginning of this series, I told you one of the two jokes I know, and now that we’ve reached the last episode, I’d like to tell you the other one.

So a moth walks into a podiatrist’s office, and the podiatrist says, “What seems to be the problem, moth?” And the moth answers, “Awww, doc. If only there were only one problem. I can’t hold down a job because I’m not good at anything.

My wife can hardly stand to look at me; we don’t even love each other anymore, worse than that, I can’t even remember if we ever loved each other. When I look into the eyes of my children, All I see is the same emptiness and despair that I feel in my own heart, doc.

” And then the podiatrist says, “Whoa, moth. Okay. Those are very serious problems, but it seems like you need to see a psychologist. I’m a podiatrist. What brought you here today?” And the moth says, “Oh.

The light was on.” We humans like to think of ourselves as extremely sophisticated animals. Like moths may fly toward the light, but humans are endowed with free will. We make choices. Except a lot of the time, we just go where the light is on.

We do whatever feels like the natural thing. We get on facebook because other people are on facebook. We scroll through posts because the architecture of the site tells us to scroll. We become passive.

In the past decade especially, social media has fundamentally changed us. Like take your vocabulary, for example. Silicon Valley rivals Shakespeare in its prolific additions to the English language. Friend, Google, and ‘gram are all verbs now.

Snap and handle have new definitions. Sliding into someone’s DMs is a thing. But it’s not just how we speak — these apps have not-so-subtly become embedded in our daily lives very quickly. Sometimes we don’t even realize how much they impact us.

They’ve changed our perceptions and expectations of privacy and they’ve also helped to shape our offline experience. In 2016 for instance, Russian agents organized political rallies all over the U.

S. by creating fake Facebook pages for made-up grassroots communities that then had real offline rallies. Just by posing as organizers against Donald Trump or against Hillary Clinton, they actually got real people to show up in Florida, New York, North Carolina, Washington, and Texas.

And those rally-goers didn’t know that it was a ruse. I find that scary. So today, for our big finale, we’re talking about the great white whale of navigating online information: your social media feed.

INTRO So quick note here at the start. I’m not currently using a bunch of social media platforms. Which may mean that I’m no longer an expert in them, but it’s only been six weeks and I don’t think anything has changed that much.

Also, it turns out that whether or not you participate in Twitter is irrelevant to whether Twitter effects you life because what’s shared online has offline consequences. Like online shouting matches about politics can influence how we vote and also how we talk to our extended family at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Unless you don’t live in the US or Canada in which case I guess you don’t have Thanksgiving and presumably you never fight with your aunts and uncles about politics. The way we interact in social media is shaping all of our offline behaviors, from how we engage with IRL communities to how we consume goods and services.

That’s why there are so many people you don’t know, and companies and organizations using social media to try to influence your thoughts and actions. Sometimes those who want to influence you use false identities like those with the Russian rallies.

Sometimes, and more overtly, they buy your attention with advertising. Some just create really engaging videos about a kitten saved during a hurricane to steal your attention. Some of these actors have relatively benign goals and act fairly, like a company sending ads into your feed for a Harry Potter mug that it turns out you actually want because you are a Hufflepuff and you are proud! But others have terrible motives and spread disinformation, like hoax news sites which are all run by Slytherins.

Still others aren’t quite in either camp. They might unwittingly spread inaccurate information, or misinformation. Like your aunt who always posts about Onion articles like they’re actual news. Or me, on the several occasions when I have failed to pause and laterally read before retweeting news that turned out to be false.

The big problem with all of that is that 68% of U.S. adults get news through some form of social media and nearly half of U.S. adults get news through Facebook. And across the globe, people between 18 and 29 years old are more likely to get their news from social media than older adults.

When we’re this reliant on a media ecosystem full of pollution, we have to take responsibility for what we read, post and share and to do that we should fully understand how social media networks really function including the good stuff, and also the terrible stuff.

First, the good side. For one thing, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow us to share information and thoughts without the help of traditional gatekeepers. Prior to social media it was really difficult to have your voice heard in a large public forum.

And because all the posts in our feeds look more or less equal social media has allowed people to have voices in public discourse who previously would have been silenced by power structures. That’s great! All tweets were created equal and everybody’s faces look weird with that one square-jawed snapchat filter and we’re all in this together! Also, social media is great for making friends and finding communities.

We can organize ourselves into these little affinity groups around special interests or organization, which makes communication much easier than it was before. Like for example, what if a group of people who want to get together and figure out how decrease overall the worldwide level of suck.

Or, when I need to know what is eating my tomatoes, I can go to a gardening facebook group. That example by the way is for old people alienated by my previous mention of snapchat filters. That said there are plenty of problems with social media from cyberbullying to catfishing to scams to massive disinformation campaigns to people live tweeting shows you wanted to watch later.

And if you’re going to live partly inside these feeds I think it’s really important to understand both the kinds of information that are likely to be shared with you and the kinds of information you’re incentivised to share.

Let’s start with targeted advertising. So you’re probably seeing an ad in this corner.. possibly this one. I don’t have a great sense of direction when I’m inside the feed. Or maybe you watched an ad before this video played.

Regardless, you may have noticed that something you searched for recently has been advertised to you. Like for instance I’m trying to improve my collection of vintage cameras for the background and suddenly all I see are advertisements for vintage cameras.

Social media companies make money by selling advertisements. That’s why you get to use those platforms for free. But these ads are very different from billboards or ads in a local newspaper, because these ads were crafted just for you, or people like you, based on what social media companies know about you.

And they know a lot. They can learn your interests and habits based on how you use their app, but they also track you elsewhere — via other apps associated with that company, or by using geolocation features to figure out where you physically are.

Social media companies take all that information and present it to advertisers in one form or another so that those advertisers can target their ads based on your interests and browsing history and location and age and gender and much more.

Can you protect your privacy and your feeds from targeted advertising? Kind of. Sometimes. You can check your favorite apps and disable data and location tracking where you can — these features may fall under Ad Preferences or Security or Privacy settings.

Another potential downside to social media: how algorithms organize our feeds. So algorithms are sets of rules or operations a computer follows to complete a task. To put it very simply: social media sites use what they know about your habits, they combine that with their knowledge of other people and the things you’ve self-selected to follow, and funnel all that information through an algorithm.

And then the algorithm decides what to show you in your newsfeed. Generally speaking, a newsfeed algorithm looks for what you’re most likely to engage with, by liking or sharing it. Social media companies want you to stay engaged with their app or site for as long as possible.

So they show you stuff that you like so you won’t leave so that they can sell more of your attention. And because the algorithms mostly show us things we are likely to like and agree with we often find ourselves in so-called filter bubbles, surrounded by voices we already know we agree with, and often unable to hear from those we don’t.

This also means that most newsfeed algorithms are skewed toward engagement rather than truth. This is so often the case in fact that entire businesses have been successfully run on posting engaging, but false, news stories.

Many newsfeed algorithms favor outrageous and emotional content, so companies looking to make money from clicks and advertisements can use that to their advantage. Hundreds of websites were built on false viral stories leading up to the 2016 U.

S. election, and Buzzfeed later found out many were run by teenagers in Macedonia. Valuing engagement over quality makes it harder for users to distinguish between truth and fiction. Like humans tend to interpret information in a way that matches our pre-existing beliefs.

That’s called confirmation bias. But even if you did somehow manage to be completely emotionally and ideologically neutral on a topic. Research has shown that if there’s information you know is bogus, encountering it again and again means you might start to believe it.

Warding off the negative effects of algorithmic newsfeeds and filter bubbles is really hard. But I do think you can limit these effects by A) following people and pages that have different viewpoints and perspectives than you do, to add some variety to your feed.

And B) looking for ways to turn off the “best” or “top” posts features in your favorite social apps so that they display information to you in a more neutral way. All of these negative features of social media combine to create the feature that I personally worry about the most: extreme recommendation engines.

Social media algorithms show you more of what you’ve already indicated you like. The way we use those apps tends to keep us surrounded by information we’re primed to believe and agree with. And because engagement is the most important thing, and we tend to engage with what most outrages, angers, and shocks us.

The longer we hang out on some social media apps and engage with outrageous content the more likely those apps are to push outrageous content to us. Researchers have found that YouTube’s recommendation algorithms, for instance, consistently showed users more and more extreme, far-right channels once they began watching political videos.

They called it a radical rabbit hole. YouTube was lumping together outlets like Fox News and the channels of Republican politicians with those of known far-right conspiracy theorists and white nationalists.

They also found that far-left channels have smaller followings and were not nearly as visible via those same pathways. Now beginning in 2017, YouTube started to update its algorithm to prioritize what they call “authoritativeness.

” In part to try to stop this from happening. But as previously noted, no algorithm is perfect or objective. Ultimately, it’s on us as users not to fall down these rabbit holes, not to go merely where the light is on.

That’s why I think it’s so important to follow accounts with differing viewpoints and to turn off data tracking if you can, and in general to try to unwind the algorithmic web around your social media life.

And while you’re in the feed it’s important to remember to read laterally about sources you don’t recognize. And also take a break once in a while. Talk to actual people. Get some fresh air. I really think that’s valuable.

But even though I personally had to leave lots of the social Internet I do believe that social media can be an effective way to learn about news and other information–if you’re able to protect yourself.

Let’s try this in the Filter Bubble. Oh yeah, that looks about right. Yes, surrounded by everything I love and believe in. Okay, that’s enough, let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Okay, so your cousin DMed you a link headlined: Singing Creek Park Sold, Will Be Home to Monster Truck Rally.

Wow. That is your favorite park, so that is a huge bummer. Your first instinct, of course, is to repost it with an angry comment like “UGH we need nature WTH this is so unfair.” But wait, no. Take a deep breath and think.

Your cousin is kind of a big deal — he’s Blue-check verified and everything. But blue checkmarks and verified profiles do not denote truth. They just mean an account itself is who they claim to be.

So you click the link. It’s from a site called localnews.co, which you’ve never heard of. And this is where your lateral reading kicks in. Use a search engine to look up the name of that site. Its Wikipedia entry reveals it’s a recently founded independent news site for your area, but it’s a very short Wikipedia article – not many reputable sources have written about the site to give us a better idea of its perspective or authority.

So you search for their claim instead: singing creek park sale. The first result is that sketchy Local News site. Let’s peruse the entire page. Ah, there you go — the seventh result is from a website you do know and trust, your local TV station and they say the park was sold, but it’s actually going to be turned into a nonprofit wildflower preserve.

Which you know what sounds pretty lovely. You could leave it at that. But as a good citizen of the internet, you should correct this misinformation. Tell your cousin what’s up, they won’t at all be defensive, ask them not to share it, and then post the trustworthy article yourself.

With the headline, “Condolences to monster truck enthusiasts.” Mission accomplished. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So during this series we’ve talked a lot about using lateral reading to check the source, look for authority and perspective, and then check the claim and its evidence.

With social media, a more flexible approach is probably best. Like sometimes it makes sense to find out who’s behind the account you’re seeing. Sometimes you should investigate the source of what they’re sharing.

Other times it’s best to evaluate the claim being made. As you practice you’ll develop a better idea of how to spend your time online. No matter where you begin, lateral reading will help you get the information you’re looking for.

When in doubt about anything you encounter online you can challenge your source and your own assumptions and see what others people have to say. And there’s one last thing I’d add: Be suspicious of information that confirms your pre-existing worldview, especially stuff that confirms that people you believe to be evil or stupid are evil or stupid.

Read laterally not only when it comes to stuff you don’t want to be true, but also when it comes to stuff you do want to be true. I know our current information environment can be frustrating. Believe me, I am frustrated by it.

It is really difficult to know where to look for truth and accuracy, and I wish I could tell you there is one right way, one source you can always rely upon, but the truth is, anyone who tells you that is selling you an ideology or a product or both.

But by making a habit of following up and following through, we can be expert navigators of digital information, and maybe even go to places where the lights are not on. Thanks so much for joining us for Crash Course: Navigating Digital Information.

And thanks to the Poynter Institute and the Stanford History Education Group for making this series possible. MediaWise is supported by Google. If you’re interested in learning more about MediaWise and fact-checking, a good place to start is @mediawise on Instagram.

Thanks again for watching. Good luck out there in the wild west. And as they say in my hometown, “don’t forget to be awesome.” hi I’m John Green and this is crash course navigating digital information so we’re gonna talk about your social media feed today but first at the beginning of the series I told you one of the two jokes I know and now that we’ve reached the last episode I’d like to tell you the other one so a moth walks into a podiatrists office and the podiatrist says what seems to be the problem moth and the moth answers Oh doc if only there were only one problem I can’t hold down a job because I’m not good at anything my wife can hardly stand to look at me we don’t even love each other anymore worse than that I can’t even remember if we ever loved each other when I look into the eyes of my children all I see is the same emptiness and despair that I feel in my own heart doc and then the podiatrist says whoa moth okay those are very serious problems but it seems like you need to see a psychologist I’m a podiatrist what brought you here today and the moth says Oh the light was on we humans like to think of ourselves as extremely sophisticated animals like moths may just fly toward the light but humans are endowed with freewill we make choices accept a lot of the time we just go where the light is on we do whatever feels like the natural thing we get on Facebook because other people are on Facebook we scroll through posts because the architecture of the site tells us to scroll we become passive in the past decade especially social media has fundamentally changed us like take your vocabulary for example Silicon Valley rivals Shakespeare in its prolific additions to the English language friend Google and Graham are all verbs now snap and Handel have new definitions sliding into someone’s DMS is a thing but it’s not just how we speak these apps have not so subtly become embedded in our daily lives very quickly sometimes we don’t even realize how much they impact us they’ve changed our perceptions and expectations of privacy and they’ve also helped to shape our offline experience in 2016 for instance Russian agents organized political rallies all over the US by creating fake Facebook pages for made-up grassroots communities that then had real offline rallies just by posing as organ against Donald Trump or against Hillary Clinton they actually got real people to show up in Florida New York North Carolina Washington and Texas and those rally goers didn’t know that it was a ruse I find that scary so today for our big finale we’re talking about the great white whale of navigating online information your social media feed [Music] so quick note here at the start I’m not currently using a bunch of social media platforms which may mean that I’m no longer an expert in them but it’s only been six weeks and I don’t think anything’s changed that much also it turns out that whether or not you participate in Twitter is irrelevant to whether Twitter affects your life because what’s shared online has offline consequences like online shouting matches about politics can influence how we vote and also how we talk to our extended family at the Thanksgiving dinner table unless you don’t live in the US or Canada in which case I guess you don’t have Thanksgiving and presumably you never fight with your aunts and uncles about politics the way we interact on social media is shaping all of our offline behaviors from how we engage with IRL communities to how we consume goods and services that’s why there are so many people you don’t know and companies and organizations using social media to try to influence your thoughts and actions sometimes those who want to influence you use false identities like those with the Russian rallies sometimes and more overtly they buy your attention with advertising some just create really engaging videos about a kitten saved during a hurricane to steal your attention some of these actors have relatively benign goals and act fairly like a company sending ads into your feed for a Harry Potter mug that it turns out you actually want because you are a Hufflepuff and you are proud but others have terrible motives and spread disinformation like hoaxes news sites which are all run by slytherins still others aren’t quite in either camp like they might unwittingly spread inaccurate information or misinformation like your aunt who always posts about onion articles like their actual news or me on the several occasions when I have failed to pause and laterally read before retweeting news that turned out to be false the big problem with all of that is that 68% of US adults get news through some form of social media and nearly half of US adults get news through Facebook and across the globe people between the ages of 18 and 29 are more likely to get their news from social media than older adults are when we’re this reliant on a media ecosystem full of pollution we have to take responsibility for what we read post and share and to do that we should fully understand how social media networks really function including the good stuff and also the terrible stuff the good side for one thing platforms like Facebook Twitter and Instagram allow us to share information and thoughts without the help of traditional gatekeepers prior to social media it was really difficult to have your voice heard in a large public forum and because all the posts in our feed book more or less equal social media has allowed people to have voices in public discourse who previously would have been silenced by power structures that’s great all tweets were created equal and everybody’s face looks weird with that one square jawed snapchat filter and we’re all in this together also social media is great for making friends and finding communities we can organize ourselves into these little affinity groups around special interests or organization which makes communication much easier than it ever was before like for example what if a group of people want to get together and figure out how to decrease the overall worldwide level of suck or when I need to know what’s eating my tomatoes I can go to a gardening Facebook group that example by the way is for old people alienated by my previous mention of snapchat filters that said there are plenty of problems with social media from cyberbullying to catfishing to scams to massive disinformation campaigns to people live tweeting shows you wanted to watch later and if you’re gonna live partly inside these feeds I think it’s really important to understand both the kinds of information that are likely to be shared with you and the kinds of information you’re incentivized to share let’s start with targeted advertising so you’re probably seeing an ad in this corner possibly this one I don’t have a great sense of direction when I’m inside the feed or maybe you watched an ad before this video played regardless you may have noticed that something you searched for recently has been advertised to you like for instance I’m trying to improve my collection of vintage cameras for the background and suddenly all I see are advertisements for vintage cameras social media companies make money by selling advertisements that’s why you get to use those platforms for free but these ads are very different from billboards or ads in a local newspaper because these ads were crafted just for you or people like you based on what social media companies know about you and they know a lot they can learn your interests and habits based on how you use their app but they can also track you elsewhere by a other apps associated with that company or by using geolocation features to figure out where you physically are social media companies take all that information and present it to advertisers in one form or another so that those advertisers can target their ads based on your interests and browsing history and location and age and gender and much more can you protect your privacy and your feeds from targeted advertising kind of sometimes you can check your favorite apps and disable data and location tracking where you can these features may fall under add preferences or security or privacy settings another potential downside to social media how algorithms organize our feeds so algorithms are sets of rules or operations or computer follows to complete a task to put it very simply social media sites use what they know about your habits they combine that with their knowledge of other people and the things you’ve self selected to follow and funnel all that information through an algorithm and then the algorithm decides what to show you in your newsfeed generally speaking a news feed algorithm looks for what you’re most likely to engage with by liking or sharing it social media companies want you to stay engaged with their app or site for as long as possible so they show you stuff that you like so you won’t leave so that they can sell more of your attention and because the algorithms mostly show us things that we are likely to like and agree with we often find ourselves in so-called filter bubbles surrounded by voices we already know we agree with and unable to hear from those we don’t this also means that most newsfeed algorithms are skewed toward engagement rather than truth this is so often the case in fact that entire businesses have been successfully run on posting engaging but false news stories many newsfeed algorithms favor outrageous and emotionally engaging content so companies looking to make money from clicks and advertisements can use that to their advantage hundreds of websites were built on false viral stories leading up to the 2016 US election and BuzzFeed later found out that many were run by teenagers in Macedonia valuing engagement over quality makes it harder for users to distinguish between truth in fiction like humans tend to interpret information in a way that matches our pre-existing beliefs that’s called confirmation bias but even if you did somehow manage to be completely emotionally and ideologically neutral on a topic research has shown that if there’s information you know is bogus encountering it again and again means you start to believe it warding off all these negative effects of algorithmic news feeds and filter bubbles is really hard but I do think you can limit the effects by a following people in pages that have different viewpoints and perspectives than you do to add some variety to your feed and be looking for ways to turn off the best or top posts features in your favorite social apps so that they display information to you in a more neutral way all these negative features of social media combine to create the feature that I personally worry about the most extreme recommendation engines social media algorithms show you more of what you’ve already indicated you like the way we use those apps tends to keep us surrounded by information we’re primed to believe and agree with and because engagement is the most important thing and we tend to engage with what most outrages angers and shocks us the longer we hang out on some social media apps and engage with outrageous content the more likely those apps are to push outrageous content to us researchers have found that YouTube’s recommendation algorithms for instance consistently showed users more and more extreme far right channels once they began watching political videos they called it a radical rabbit hole YouTube was lumping together outlets like Fox News and the channels of Republican politicians with those of known far-right conspiracy theorists and white nationalists they also found that far left channels had smaller followings and were not nearly as visible via those same pathways now beginning in 2017 YouTube started to update its algorithm to prioritize what they call authoritative ‘no sin part to try to stop this from happening but as previously noted no algorithm is perfect or objective ultimately it’s on us as users not to fall down these rabbit holes not to go merely where the light is on that’s why I think it’s so important to follow accounts which differ viewpoints and to turn off data tracking if you can and in general to try to unwind the algorithmic web around your social media life and while you’re in the feed it’s important to remember to read laterally about sources you don’t recognize and also take a break once in a while talk to actual people get some fresh air I really think that’s valuable but even though I personally had to leave lots of the social internet I do believe that social media can be an effective way to learn about news and other information if you’re able to protect yourself let’s try this in the filter bubble oh yeah that looks about right yes Oh surrounded by everything I love and believe in okay that’s enough let’s go to the thought-bubble okay so your cousin DMD you a link headlined singing Creek Park sold will be home to monster truck rally Wow that is your favorite Park so that’s a huge bummer your first instinct of course is to repost it with an angry comment like oh we need nature wth this is so unfair but wait no take a deep breath and think your cousin is kind of a big deal he’s blue check verified and everything but blue checkmarks and verified profiles do not denote truth they just mean an account itself is who they claim to be so you click the link and it’s from a site called local news Co which you’ve never heard of and this is where your lateral reading kicks in use a search engine to look up the name of that site its Wikipedia entry reveals it is a recently founded independent news site for your area but it’s a very short Wikipedia article not many reputable sources have written about the site to give us a better idea of its perspective or authority so you search for their claim instead singing Creek Park sale the first result is that sketchy local news site let’s prove that entire search page a-ha there you go the seventh result is from a website you do know and trust your local TV station and they say the park was sold but it’s actually going to be turned into a non-profit wildflower preserve which you know what sounds pretty lovely you could leave it at that but as a good citizen of the Internet you should correct this misinformation tell your cousin what’s up they won’t be at all defensive asked them not to share it and then post the trustworthy article yourself with the headline condo – monster truck enthusiasts mission accomplished thanks thought-bubble so during this series we’ve talked a lot about using lateral reading to check the source book for authority and perspective and then check the claim and its evidence with social media a more flexible approach is probably best like sometimes it makes sense to find out who’s behind the account you’re seeing sometimes you should investigate the source of what they’re sharing other times it’s best to evaluate the claim being made as you practice you’ll develop a better idea of how to spend your time online no matter where you begin lateral reading will help you get the information you’re looking for when in doubt about anything you encounter online you can challenge your source and your own assumptions and see what other people have to say and there’s one last thing I’d add be suspicious of information that confirms your pre-existing worldview especially stuff that confirms that people you believe to be evil or stupid or evil or stupid read laterally not only when it comes to stuff you don’t want to be true but also when it comes to stuff you do want to be true I know our current information environment can be frustrating believe me I am frustrated by it it is really difficult to know where to look for truth and accuracy and I wish I could tell you there is one right way one source you can always rely upon but the truth is anyone who tells you that is selling you an ideology or a product or both but by making a habit of following up and following through we can be expert navigators of digital information and maybe even go to places where the lights are not on thanks so much for joining us for crash course navigating digital information and thanks again to the pointer Institute and the Stanford history education group for making this series possible media-wise is supported by Google if you’re interested in learning more about media wise and fact-checking a good place to start is at media wise on Instagram thanks again for watching good luck out there in the Wild West and as they say in my hometown don’t forget to be awesome thank you for watching crash course which is filmed here in Indianapolis Indiana with the help of all of these nice people for the series crash course has teamed up with media-wise a project under the pointer stitute that was created with support from google the pointer Institute is a nonprofit journalism school the goal of media wise is to teach students how to assess the accuracy of information they encounter online the media-wise curriculum was developed by the Stanford history education group based on Civic online reasoning research they began in 2015 if you’re interested in learning more about media wise and fact-checking you can visit at media-wise on instagram thanks again for watching and thanks to media wise in the Stanford history education group for working with us on this project [Music] you

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