27 February 2012

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The Effects of Social Media on Mass Hysteria



When it comes to communication in today's techno-centric society, social media is taking over. Never before has it been easier to relay and receive messages to and from hundreds of people with just a few simple keystrokes. This convenience is arguably changing the way we develop and maintain relationships, which carries both positive and negative connotations. There is much debate over whether social media is bringing people closer together, or alienating people from true intimacy . . . but one thing there is no question over is the fact that social media makes it possible to spread information very rapidly. That's great when the information is constructive, but what of information that is inaccurate, misleading, loaded with emotional weight, or destructive in nature? Obviously, social media can have some major effects on mass hysteria. Read on to learn more about this alarming phenomenon:
  • Haste makes waste. One reason social media is so susceptible to leading participants into mass media is the real-time nature of social media posts. For example, it is a well-known fact that news reporters must scramble to be the very first to break a story if they are to stay on top of the game. When it comes to social media, reporters can miss out on this edge simply by being a millisecond slow to post. That means that there is often such a rush to put information out that not enough time goes into verifying the accuracy of that information. This is wasteful reporting, and such blunders can lead to widespread panic.
  • Attention-seeking. It's not new knowledge that people like attention, and some will seek out attention at any cost, whether it be positive or negative attention. Social media makes it easy for people to get attention, and one common way of doing that is to spread a sensational story - true or not. Therefore, it's no surprise that people construct attention-grabbing updates in order to reel people in . . . and the more shocking the headline, the more likely it is to create mass hysteria.
  • Shocking examples. There are some very odd cases of the special brand of mass hysteria aided by social media. The recent development of a strange twitching disorder amongst about twenty teenage girls from a rural area in upstate New York prompted further investigation into the spread of such "conditions" via social media. Some sufferers of this mysterious, medically-atypical disorder posted videos of their twitching on Facebook and Youtube, and the disorder then seemed to spread like wildfire. Similar occurrences were noted all over the world, with the most notable case being amongst over six-hundred students in Mexico.
Social media is a valuable modern convenience that allows loved ones to keep in touch from thousands of miles away. It also allows dangerous ideas to spread rapidly. Our best defense is to question everything we see, and not to perpetuate the spread of information that is not verifiable.

About today's Guest Writer:
Lael Tacker spends his days studying the effects of technology on human interaction. When he's not looking at technology from a research standpoint, you can find him scouring the web for the next best ringtone app, new gadgets, and his favorite online games.