The latest tech hearing was a study in contrasts. Contrasts between lawmakers who made an effort to stay on topic in a hearing ostensibly about social media and the 2020 election and those who… just talked about whatever was on their minds.
Also contrasts between then and now. Social media companies previously treated any attempt at Section 230 reform as radioactive; now, they’ve come around to cooperating so they’re not cut out of the conversation altogether.
But most of all it was a study in contrasts for the two men on the virtual witness stand: Facebook’s equivocating chief executive, who always manages to speak too much in the service of saying very little and Twitter’s laconic business mystic who came off as measurably more poised to meet the moment, wizard beard and all.
In a signal that the hearing’s stated purpose would not reflect the grab bag of gripes on display Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s own chairman, Sen. Lindsey Graham, threw the plan out early and asked the two CEOs if they had seen any evidence that their platforms were addictive.
Zuckerberg responded with characteristic defensiveness, arguing that the research in this area was not “conclusive.”
“We certainly do not want our products to be addictive,” Zuckerberg said, contradicting behavioral scientists, Facebook defectors och common sense observations of its products. “We want people to use them because they are meaningful,” he added, casting aspersions on “the memes and misinformation out there” about what makes Facebook’s business tick. The response fit neatly into a narrative a few lawmakers pushed that big tech operates out of big tobacco’s playbook.
Given the same question, Dorsey was less disingenuous. “I do think like anything else, these tools can be addictive and we should be aware of that and acknowledge it,” Dorsey said. His statement perhaps stops short of acknowledging the degree to which social media has reshaped the course of modern human behavior, but ultimately it bodes better for Twitter’s health as a platform and for its users’ addled brains.
The two CEOs also sharply contrasted on questions about their algorithms.
When Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked if social platforms should provide more transparency around the algorithms they use to decide what users see, Dorsey proposed more transparency through user control. “I think a better option is providing more choice to be able to turn off the algorithms or choose a different algorithm so that people can see how it effects ones’ experience,” Dorsey said.
Dorsey also suggested that Twitter could expand those options through something like a third-party “marketplace” where users could select ranking algorithms that suited their needs.
Zuckerberg, for his part, didn’t go near this idea with a 10-foot pole, instead lauding the existence of Facebook’s third-party fact-checking program (never mind the too-restrained way Facebook presents those fact checks) and the company’s community standards reports, which present aggregated numbers on the rule-breaking content it removes. Facebook’s algorithm is a black box that users are locked inside and that’s that. (Naturally, the box prints ad dollars.)
In contrast, Twitter has committed to a kind of openness that’s not perfect, but it’s at least refreshing. The company treats its platform policy decisions as a kind of living document, tweeting updates about the most high-profile decisions in near real-time, admitting mistakes and emphasizing that it’s learning and changing things as it goes.
One example of Twitter’s experimental approach: The company universally disabled one-click retweets before the U.S. election, hoping to make user behavior less reactive while slowing down viral election misinformation. The changes were part of Twitter’s recent experiments with introducing more friction to the platform. Twitter also hid tweets and restricted sharing for some particularly egregious bits of misinformation — some of it coming from President Trump. Facebook stuck to “labels,” the current bare minimum content moderation gesture.
Dorsey’s company is still plagued by rampant harassment, brain-melting conspiracies and, for now, a lame duck president actively seeking to destabilize American democracy, but it at least seems open to changes that could shift the dynamics of the platform in the interest of making it better.
How much do we shape-shift across social media?
Like the spaces we frequent in the physical world, each social app serves a different, fairly obvious purpose. If LinkedIn is a job fair of some sort, Instagram is a playground, or a party — both of which can be simultaneously bright, loud, and exhausting. The distinctions between these platforms are very much known.
But these are places we go to everyday, and in each, we shift. We flick through a handful apps everyday, the more prominent ones arguably being TikTok, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. On some, our tone may be nonchalant; on another, indignant. These are emotions expressed daily, sometimes concurrently, with different interfaces displaying alternative views, moods, even personas.
How much do we actually do shape-shift across social media? Turns out, a lot.
Samara Madhvani, who owns a boutique social media consultancy(Opens in a new window), says that what she shares on TikTok is vastly different from her posts on Instagram.
“Most of my friends don’t use [TikTok], so I feel like I can post more freely without being judged,” she tells Mashable. “It’s a great space to experiment with different kinds of content, that I would probably never share on Instagram.”
Similarly, brand management and development specialist MaryKate tells Mashable that she shows her “full authentic self” solely on Snapchat.
“Snapchat is for [my] innermost thoughts,” she says. Meanwhile, she uses Instagram to post “photos of things, travel and the occasional selfie”. TikTok is for more niche interests, where she posts “drone footage or animal footage”. Twitter is a point of conflict, where she feels more filtered.
“I feel like each social media platform is a different part of me,” she says.
At their core, these apps are intending for users to be on display, in whatever curated form they desire. Apps like BeReal have attempted to offer a different side to social media, with the premise that users can be their most authentic selves. Yet, it’s another platform that is, in reality, asking something of the user: who are you in this moment? What do you and to show?
“When you look at our behaviour on social media as a whole, our personality on a platform depends on how we perceive its usage.”
Ria Chopra(Opens in a new window), a writer and journalist, says that she is guarded about her personal life and selective when it comes to posting across all platforms.
“The sides of my personality I choose to show differ from platform to platform,” she says. “When you look at our behaviour on social media as a whole, our personality on a platform depends on how we perceive its usage. LinkedIn is perceived by me to be a professional space, so I’m professional there. Instagram is for personal connections, so I’m more likely to put up birthday posts there, while Twitter is more stream-of-consciousness, simply because of that’s the kind of stuff I see there and believe it’s for.”
Being human means having to change, situationally and socially, on the daily. This isn’t news to any adult. Who you are at work may be a far cry from who you are at home. What you show to your closest friends can be deviation from who are you with your siblings. For Black people and people of color, code switching is even more habitual(Opens in a new window), particularly in the workplace where bias based on factors like speech(Opens in a new window) has long had a negative impact. These ever-so-subtle shifts that take place are near instinctive for most. But when this applies to the internet, too, identity can be in constant flux.
For many users, this is a natural aspect to having more than one social media account. It’s almost a given: an exercise in construction and curation(Opens in a new window), for numerous reasons.
Being a woman or a marginalized person on social media comes with its own set of complications, for instance. These are ones that can largely hinder what a person chooses to share and speak about on public platforms. Seyi Akiwowo(Opens in a new window), author of How to Stay Safe Online(Opens in a new window), addressed this extensively in her guidebook to the internet. “The idea that online platforms are neutral is a fairy tale. It’s not a few bad apples ruining the experience for the rest of us. The very DNA of these platforms is in conflict with the best interests of a large number of their users,” Akiwowo writes. “Women and girls across the globe are walking on eggshells because of the fear of online abuse.”
Research by Plan International in 2017(Opens in a new window), which Akiwowo cites, found that 43 percent of girls aged 11 to 18 admitted to holding back their opinions on social media for fear of being criticized. Self-censorship, while admittedly an issue for all on social apps, is heightened when it comes to young girls who are doing so for their own safety online.
“Women can post on almost any topic — animal rights, climate change, healthcare — and abuse usually follows,” writes Akiwowo.
Then there are the lesser but significant factors everyone faces – like who your followers are and whether your account is private. These will also play a natural role in choosing how to behave on a certain platform. This is perhaps what led to the surge of “finstas” — which now seem near extinct — a few years ago. These “fake” Instagram accounts allowed for privacy and exclusivity, but are now a dated concept, shadowed by integrated features like Instagram’s Close Friends och Twitter Circle. The demand for these also alludes to the greater desire to post and interact in different ways, even in the space of a singular app.
Madhvani believes that total, complete authenticity is a far reach on any platform. “Even a comment or a like on someone else’s content will leave a digital footprint,” she says. “Today, everything that people post is somewhat curated. At the end of the day, you’re posting and sharing for a purpose whether it’s to look a certain way or to get more followers or even sell a product.”
Alex Quicho, head of futures at trends agency Canvas8(Opens in a new window), suggests there is a positive side to the transformations we undergo on apps, saying that social media can play a role in “trying out different facets of one’s persona”.
“Today’s crop of users are less concerned about projecting a stable image or personal brand,” says Quicho. “We’re seeing many Gen Zers adopt an exploratory attitude to how they appear on social platforms: seeing these false personas as creative and constructive.”
In this vein, having different sorts of social media can provide paths to traverse identity and to explore different interests. The possible trouble is not in utilizing these purpose-driven platforms. Instead, there is potential for burnout in these spaces(Opens in a new window), which is already a dangling possibility(Opens in a new window) for anyone who uses social media.
Chopra says that she is increasingly “cross-posting” across platforms, in an endeavor to integrate content and show her comprehensive self.
“It’s unconscious, but maybe that’s my bid to be more ‘me’ everywhere. So I’ve posted my tweets on LinkedIn, my Instagram posts on Twitter, if I want to. And it’s paying off — I feel more authentic knowing that I’m reflecting a more holistic sense of my personality everywhere,” she explains.
Let’s face it: authenticity and social media are hardly interconnected. Some social media users are increasingly pursuing this concept, seeking to be themselves on platforms designed to allow the opposite. But living in the digital age — with an influx of apps at our disposal — means having to have more than one public face: a near constant metamorphosis.
This Facebook Page Shares 116 Memes That Might Teach You Something (New Pics)
What was your experience like in school? Were you straight-A student, or were you more focused on upholding your reputation as class clown than finishing your homework on time? Regardless of how much you remember from the good (or bad) old days in the classroom, it’s likely that there weren’t many memes involved in the curriculum. If there were, I’m jealous! And if there weren’t, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with your daily dose of educational memes down below!
We’ve gathered some of the best posts from Educational Memes on Instagram to remind you all that learning and laughing don’t have to be mutually exclusive. So, pandas, enjoy these pics that might take you back to the days of packed lunches, recess and raising your hand when you had a question, and be sure to upvote the ones that make you feel particularly intelligent.
Keep reading to also find a conversation with the creator of this hilarious account, Yashdeep Kanhai, and then if you’re interested in finding even more memes dedicated to living, laughing and learning, you can find Bored Panda’s previous article featuring Educational Memes right here!