Editorial

Is social media a friend or an enemy?

social media
Social media: Is it our friend or our enemy? Source: Today Testing (for derivative) (via Wikimedia Commons)
In August, Netflix released its docudrama, The Social Dilemma. What has it taught us about social media? Is it our friend or our enemy?

By Tirion Davies | Editor-in-Chief

In August, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Netflix released a docudrama called The Social Dilemma, delving into the world of social media, and the big corporations who now control our lives.

Filled with former employees of companies such as Facebook and Twitter, the docudrama explained the mechanism used to keep us interested in the social networking sites but also indicated just how much information these big companies can know, based on the information we give them.

Google admitted that, as they have so much information on us based on our location and search history, each person in the world gets a different automatic result when they begin to type a search. For instance, if someone has shown signs of searching ways of being eco-friendly and they begin to search ‘global warming is…’, their search bar will predict searches such as ‘global warming is the biggest issue in 2020’; for those who have a search history of being more sceptical of global warming, the same search will garner predicted results such as ‘global warming is a hoax’.

Social media sites will gather information about what it is you interact with and will show you similar results each time. It sounds obvious, but for many, it is believed that the things you may see on your timeline are identical to those of your friends. For social media sites such as Instagram, a post from two seconds ago could appear on your timeline, whilst the same post may appear on your friends’ Instagram two days later.

Social media sites and search networks such as Google give us what we want to see. Of course they do – it’s part of their design.

But when does only seeing posts tailored to you become an issue?

Politics is such a controversial topic that many refuse to discuss it with their friends and family members in fear of being judged, or beginning an argument.

The divide seems so great that it often feels impossible to some that others can think so differently to themselves. Yet, social media and social networking sites have a part to play in this.

If the algorithm has understood you are interacting with certain kinds of posts or videos, it will keep showing you those videos. In a political sense, it will continue to offer you information based on one side of the political spectrum.

Although the algorithm is simply doing what it was designed to do, it can become dangerous when we continuously only see one side of the coin. Yes, you are seeing things you are interested in, but alternatively, it’s creating a greater divide.

Social media is also increasingly being used to push personal brands. You are only showing the ‘perfect’ version of yourself you want the world to see. It can be damaging to some to only see the perfect side of someone’s life, without that insight that they, too, have horrendous days.

In a world where ‘perfect’ is the goal, being imperfect by those standards can weigh heavily on a person.

Social networking and social media are also ways for people to show they are part of something bigger than themselves. Take, for instance, the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained more notoriety this summer, following the deaths of African Americans like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor from police brutality.

A movement began on social media called ‘Blackout Tuesday’, meant to amplify the voices of people of colour on social networking platforms. For many, it meant posting a black box on their Instagram pages, as a way of showing solidarity. However, thousands across the globe received scrutiny for using Blackout Tuesday to improve their personal brand, but then later deleting the post as it didn’t ‘fit’ with the personal brand they had created on social media.

Social media is great – it can help connect people, and we often hear stories of people reuniting through social media platforms. It can also, however, create an environment filled with impossible standards and divide.

Social media sites can be incredible, but it’s always important to be careful when using them.


Ym mis Awst, yng nghanol y cyfnod COVID-19, fe wnaeth Netflix rhyddhau ffilm ddogfennol o’r enw The Social Dilemma, ag oedd yn dangos y byd technegol tu ôl i rai o’r cwmnïoedd fwyaf yn y byd cyfryngau cymdeithasol, a’r ffordd eu bod yn rheoli ein bywydau ni.

Ffilm llawn wybodaeth gan rhai o hen weithwyr cwmnïoedd megis Facebook a Thrydar oedd, yn esbonio effaith y cwmnïoedd yma ar ein bywydau pob dydd. Sonnir am y technegau sy’n cael ei ddefnyddio i gadw’r cyhoedd wedi’u diddori yn y cyfryngau cymdeithasol yma, ond wnaeth hefyd sôn yn benodol am y lefel uchel o wybodaeth bod gan gwmnïoedd mawr fel hyn am ein bywydau, yn seiliedig ar y wybodaeth yr ydym yn cynnig iddyn nhw heb feddwl.

Wnaeth Google nodi, gan fod cymaint o wybodaeth ganddyn nhw, mae pob un person yn derbyn canlyniadau gwahanol wrth iddyn nhw chwilio ar lein, yn seiliedig ar hyn yr oeddynt yn barod wedi edrych arni. Er enghraifft, os bod person yn aml yn edrych ar ffurf o wella’r amgylchedd, os oeddynt wedi chwilio ‘mae newid hinsawdd yn…’ wnaethon nhw dderbyn fwy na thebyg ymatebion megis ‘mae newid hinsawdd yn broblem fawr’; tra bydd rhywun sydd wedi ymchwilio i newid hinsawdd mewn ffordd fwy negyddol yn y gorffennol yn derbyn ymatebion megis ‘nid yw newid hinsawdd yn bodoli’.

Bydd gwefannau cyfryngau cymdeithasol yn defnyddio’r wybodaeth o’r hyn yr ydych wedi ymateb iddo er mwyn dangos i chi canlyniadau tebyg yn y dyfodol. Ydy, mae’n swnio’n amlwg, ond mae rhai dal i feddwl bod yr hyn mae’ch ffrind yn gweld ar ei gyfrif Instagram union yr un peth â’r hyn eich bod chi’n gweld. Ar gyfryngau cymdeithasol megis Instagram, gallech chi fod yn weld llun dwy eiliad ar ôl iddo gael ei rhoi ar y wefan, tra gall eich ffrind ei weld ar ôl dau ddiwrnod.

Wrth gwrs bod gwefannau cymdeithasol a rhaglenni megis Google yn dangos i ni’r hyn hoffwn ni ei weld – dyna yw’r pwynt. Ond pryd bod ond gweld yr un pethau yn dod yn broblem?

Mae’r rhaniad rhwng pleidiau gwleidyddol erbyn hyn wedi cyrraedd uchafbwynt, ac mae’n amhosib cael trafodaeth rhwng dau berson sy’n dilyn syniadau gwleidyddol hollol wahanol. Er bod yr algorithm ond yn dangos yr hyn yr ydych wedi rhyngweithio gydag ef, mae’n creu fwy o raniad gwleidyddol nag erioed o’r blaen.

Wrth gwrs, mae cyfryngau cymdeithasol ond yn dangos yr ongl ‘perffaith’ ar fywyd person. Os ydych yn chwilio ar gyfryngau cymdeithasol ceir perffeithrwydd ym mhobman. Ond, gall gweld perffeithrwydd wneud i chi deimlo eich bod yn dilyn bywyd hollol amherffaith yn aml.

Gall cyfryngau cymdeithasol bod yn ddull anhygoel yn y byd – rydym yn clywed weithiau am bobl yn gwrdd eto ar ôl flynyddoedd o’i gilydd. Ond, gall hefyd bwysleisio casineb a rhaniad.

Mae’n rhaid i ni fod yn ofalus, felly.

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