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Sensationalism on Social Media: How Algorithms Feed the Addiction

In today’s fast-paced world, social media has become a vital part of our lives. However, this increased reliance on social media has led to a concerning trend where people are more interested in sensational news rather than reality. We will discuss why this is and the effect that it is having on society as a whole.

The Psychology behind Sensational News

To understand why people are more interested in sensational news, we need to delve into the psychology behind it. Sensational news refers to news stories that are shocking, emotionally charged, and often exaggerated. Research has shown that humans are naturally attracted to sensational news because it triggers our emotions and captures our attention. Our brains are wired to pay more attention to negative news as it potentially threatens our well-being. Therefore, sensational news appeals to our basic survival instincts.

Furthermore, sensational news creates a sense of excitement and intrigue. We feel compelled to know more and become a part of the conversation. Social media has enabled us to share our thoughts and opinions on sensational news, further feeding our desire for more information. This leads to a cycle where sensational news generates more engagement, leading to more sensational news.

The Role of Social Media Platforms in Sensationalism

Social media platforms have played a significant role in promoting sensationalism. These platforms rely on user engagement and use algorithms to prioritize content that generates the most engagement. This means that sensational news tends to get more visibility and is more likely to be shared on social media. Pair this with algorithms that suggest more content that matches what a person is already consuming, and these users will continue being exposed to the same ideas continuously. 

Additionally, social media platforms have enabled the spread of fake news and misinformation. The algorithms used by these platforms do not prioritize accuracy or truthfulness. Fake news and conspiracy theories can spread rapidly on social media, leading to a distorted view of reality. Moreover, social media platforms have become breeding grounds for trolls and bots, which can amplify sensational news and further fuel the spread of fake news.

The Impact of Sensational News on Society

The prevalence of sensational news on social media platforms has significantly impacted society. Firstly, it has led to a decline in trust in traditional media. The constant barrage of sensational news and fake news has eroded mainstream media’s credibility, making it harder for people to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of information.

Secondly, sensational news has led to a polarized society. Social media platforms have created echo chambers where users are only exposed to information reinforcing their beliefs. This has led to filter bubbles, where people are less likely to engage with different perspectives. Moreover, sensational news tends to be more politically charged, leading to a further societal divide.

Lastly, sensational news has desensitized us to real-world issues. We are bombarded with news stories that are designed to trigger our emotions. This tends to exclude ideas that may not have the same shock value but are just as important, such as the issues of free speech, the lack of awareness regarding discrimination against groups that do not have a voice of their own, and the blatant violations of the law by the powerful that roam free based on technicalities. We become less likely to engage with issues that do not provide instant gratification or are not emotionally charged.

How to Combat Sensationalism on Social Media

It is essential to fact-check news stories before sharing them on social media. Several fact-checking websites, such as Snopes and FactCheck.org, can help verify the accuracy of news stories. Furthermore, it is crucial to diversify the sources of information you consume. Do not rely on a single source of information or a single perspective. Engage with different viewpoints and actively seek to hear the perspective of the opposite side.

There are many sources over the internet that value education and make the mundane interesting. These creators are doing God’s work to preserve our humanity through social media; creators such as Hank Green, Legal Eagle, and Kurzgesagt, amongst many others, are worth mentioning.

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