23 April 2019

South Africa: How to Lose the Social Media Battle in One Easy Lesson

opinion

Globally, social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are becoming more persuasive than traditional media in influencing public opinion - especially when they are echo chambers reflecting already held biases back at the reader. But when official social media sites, like the Facebook page of the South African Judiciary, are written in incomprehensible jargon, their message is lost in translation.

As we move closer to South Africa's sixth democratic election, it is a good time to take stock of how radically the influence game has changed with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

Where Facebook beats out hard-nosed investigative reporting is that news on Facebook is often perceived to be from a trusted source. That is because news is shared between "friends" and family, sources that many of us tend to trust more than unknown reporters and researchers. This is especially true when news from social media resonates with deep-seated biases.

There is much research to support the thesis that emotional reactions determine political identity. Social media, much more effectively than traditional media, taps into emotions because of the element of trust. When friends and family share stories they are rarely asked to provide the sources or...

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