Americans spend a large portion of their lives logged in on social media. In 2015, Informate Mobile Intelligence released a study that determined we check our social media at least seventeen times daily, or at least once every hour. For teenagers, this number is even larger. Common Sense Media determined they spend at least nine hours a day on social media – a staggering amount.
With these numbers, it is absolutely impossible to say that social media does not impact the information people receive during presidential elections. On my Facebook feed, I have friends who were both supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. While our ideas of the role government should play in our lives were vastly different, I assumed the facts and general information we would receive about both campaigns and their supporters would be similar. I could not have been more wrong.
I soon determined that Trump supporters saw liberals as cheaters and liars – many people on my feed were convinced Hillary had lied about almost every career decision in her life. They thought she had defended a child rapist willingly, and even were convinced a video existed of her laughing at the girl’s claims. Hillary supporters viewed conservatives as racists and homophobes – they thought all Trump supporters were members of the KKK, and that Trump had never respected a single woman or person of color in his life.
In all actuality, the truth lies more in the middle. Hillary Clinton has lied about her career in interviews, but the video of her supposedly laughing at a child rapist is a myth – it doesn’t exist. In fact, she detested the fact she had to defend the man in a court of law. Donald Trump has made racist and sexist remarks during his campaign, but also hired the first woman ever to be a top construction engineer in New York.
These are just a few of the lies people saw on their Facebook feed and did not decided to look any further. What frightens me, as well as many others, is that I don’t know exactly what amount of truth people read on their feed. After all, fake news articles and reports are known to circulate on Facebook. Despite founder Mark Zuckerberg stating that these articles make up less that 1% of the information on the website, it is impossible to think they had no influence on voters who took them to be true.
Even after the race for the White House was over, the divide between the two candidates’ supporters could not have been greater. The conservatives on my feed are convinced most people protesting Donald Trump’s election are anti-American fools who burn American flags. Hillary Clinton supporters are convinced Donald Trump supporters are almost entirely racist white men who tear hijabs off Muslims and antagonize African Americans. And technically, according to both of their feeds, those assumptions would be correct.
While this persistent miscommunication is not only social media’s fault, the blame cannot be entirely put elsewhere. Facebook caters to the general public by showing information each individual user has shown interest in. This information includes what it believes to be your political preferences, meaning the posts you see on your feed about the election are catered to your specific beliefs. As a Donald Trump supporter, you might be shown a video on why Hillary Clinton should be imprisoned, as opposed to one talking about what great things she has done doing her campaign. This leads to biased voters and an enormous divide between conservatives and liberals.
Facebook needs to do a better job of spreading full information to all of their users. If this social platform would deliver complete stories about both sides of the election to the people using it, those people would go to the polls more knowledgeable, and would therefore be able to make a better decision on which candidate is truly right for our country. Instead of each side hating the other, people would understand each other better, and be more informed on what is truly going on in the United States.
Christine Tannous is an 18-year-old Arab-American aspiring photographer and journalist living in the United States. She is currently undergoing a gap year before she attends college next year to major in journalism.