With social media sites gaining more popularity, people have found a freedom to express their opinions on almost any subject. However, this need not be a positive sign. Joseph Reagle is an associate professor of Northeastern University who studies online culture and who has written a book on the same titled Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web. Reagle writes about how with the option to upvote or downvote the content on these websites determining the position of it in the thread, this becomes a way of manipulating what a person sees. It becomes a platform to promote and make popular an idea that could be harmful to the society.
It also becomes a space where people can openly comment, potentially leading to harassment and violence. With the advent of internet, it is the first time that people have access to such a diverse amount of discussions and debates that they can be a part of. Reagle brings in the analogy of a garden to understand this better. One cannot expect a garden to be beautiful if you let people litter. One has to provide with the right fertilizers and remove the weeds to make it the garden we want to. Social media, Reagle says, is similar in which each website is doing the weeding out in their own way to create a safe social media experience for its users.
Too much freedom is dangerous. It is only with the right sanitisation that we can make use of the best that social media has to offer.
N Malavika Mohan