2. Checking my own perceptions
To further understand how manipulative and misleading online activity spread, I used the tools created by Filippo Menczer, Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia and their colleagues at the Observatory on Social Media at Indiana University. They want to “help people become aware of [biases in the brain, society and technologies] and protect themselves from outside influences designed to exploit them.”
The most fun is their game “Fakey,” which asks players to identify which news stories and information sources are reliable – and which aren’t. They’ve also built Hoaxy, which shows graphically how falsehoods spread across social networks, and Botometer, which rates how likely it is that a particular Twitter account is a bot – or not.
3. Bots are powerful
Those bots, I learned from MIT professor Tauhid Zaman, can be dangerous even if there aren’t very many of them. He analyzed Twitter activity, including both people and bots, and measured users’ political opinions. Then he found a way to simulate what the humans’ views would have been if the bots weren’t there.
“A small number of very active bots can actually significantly shift public opinion,” he found. The key wasn’t how many Twitter bots there were, but how many posts they made.
4. Engaging with real people
All the free time I gained by spending less time on social media went to good use, for socializing in-person and being by myself — which likely made me feel happier. As Georgetown psychologist Kostadin Kushlev found, “Digital socializing doesn’t add to, but in fact subtracts from, the psychological benefits of nondigital socializing.”
I certainly feel best when socializing face-to-face and, as Kushlev found in his research subjects, focusing on the people who are right in front of me is even more enjoyable than hanging out in person while also messaging others on their phones.
Avoiding psychological and political manipulation and having a more enjoyable time with friends and loved ones in person sounds like a great plan for 2019, too.
© [Salon] (https://www.salon.com/2018/12/29/remember-youre-being-manipulated-on-social-media-4-essential-reads_partner/)