With the rapid growth and development of technology, there is no doubt that social media platforms continuously influence the public opinion, touching on the economic, cultural and social aspects of society. Stated from News Use Across Social Media Platforms, “two-thirds of Americans report they get at least some of their news on social media” (Shearer, 2017). Because of Facebook’s large user base, being a dominant force, it takes the lead on every other social media site as a source of news: a whopping 66% of Americans use Facebook on a daily basis (Shearer, 2017). For many, the social media site remains as an important news outlet source that has made digital communication more transparent and malleable. As a regular social media user, it is crucial to understand the impact of social media because of its creation and impact on social life.
Digital communication tools are the source of facilitating the exchange of information across platforms, resulting in the manipulation and distortion of truths. Consequently, the misinformation leads to what is known as the creation of “fake news”. False stories have been becoming hugely popular online with deceptive titles that attract the reader into believing as real news. Recently, in the last three months of the US presidential campaign, fake news outperformed real news. As a result, a blur between what is genuine and what is false is increasingly becoming harder to differentiate because in a world of easily accessible digital devices, consumers have the ability to play a role in being producers of information. The creation and circulation of public opinion affects social life on two standpoints: cultural and social. Not only does public opinion have the competency to corrupt traditional values, it can alter the audience’s perspectives. Thus, public opinion is ever-changing: it is persuaded and influenced through social media — making it more achievable, yet uncontrollable.
The distribution of fake news on Facebook carries uncontrollable and disruptive ramifications on an individual’s life. Take for example: a photoshoot to promote plastic surgery became viral when false stories began to spread quickly on Facebook, leading to a long-term consequence of a Taiwanese model, Heidi Yeh’s career. The photo shows Yeh posed in a family photo with three kids who were purposely made to appear “ugly” with small eyes and flat noses. Little did Yeh know, she would soon became a victim of a viral internet meme that put a toll on her personal life and career. False claims stated that her supposed husband in the photo sued her (his wife) for deceiving him when he discovered that she had undergone plastic surgery before they met because the image shows a lack of resemblance between the children and the parents. The Taiwanese model felt destroyed by the media, claiming she felt hesitant to continue her modelling career because of the public embarrassment. Serving as a real-life example of the uncontrollable outcomes of public opinion, as a result, the model’s job offers slowed down for three years and shattered her relationship with her then-boyfriend. Subsequently, the situation clearly got out of hand when threats to sue began to emerge.
How did the photo get distributed to become a global meme? The talent advertising agency stated the ad would be featured in newspapers and magazines by the initial cosmetic clinic only, according to Yeh (Willett, 2015). However, the agency later allowed another clinic access to the image for their website, claiming their copyright ownership and intention to promote plastic surgery in a humorous manner. When Yeh threatened to sue the cosmetic clinics, they responded by claiming that she damaged their reputation and demanded for an apology from Yeh. Soon enough, it was all over Facebook news feeds and it is because of these stories that Facebook has moved towards the implementation of algorithms to optimize users’ news feeds in order to cease the prioritization of fake news without restricting the accurate content. The attention that has caused Facebook to take action proves that public opinion is largely influential and is not taken lightly. Therefore, social media and the internet encourages and enables collaboration through the exchanging of knowledge that builds and influences societies.
B. (2014, July 18). What’s the impact of social networks on public opinion? Retrieved October 11, 2017, from https://medium.com/@behradj92/whats-the-impact-of-social-networks-on- public-opinion-fe148ce89a6
Franz, J. (2016, December 10). What’s the role of social media in the news media? Retrieved October 11, 2017, from https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-11-26/whats-role-social-media-news-media
Shearer, E., & Gottfriend, J. (2017, September 7). News Use Across Social Media Platforms 2017. Retrieved October 11, 2017, from http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news- use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/
Social Media: Shaping The Way We See the World or Shaping the New World Itself? (2013, February 19). Retrieved October 11, 2017, from https://astanatimes.com/2013/02/social- media-shaping-the-way-we-see-the-world-or-shaping-the-new-world-itself/
Willett, M. (2015, November 06). A Taiwanese model said her life was ‘ruined’ after she was turned into a plastic-surgery meme. Retrieved October 11, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/taiwanese-model-plastic-surgery-meme-2015-11