Likes, hashtags and memes: they’re part of American culture, one where social media has tremendous influence. Social media experts agree these platforms have the ability to magnify messages.
“It intensifies anger. It intensifies impulses,” explains Rich Hanley, associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac University.
Attempting to stop the spread of inflammatory messages through their platforms, Facebook and Twitter temporarily suspended President Trump’s accounts Wednesday. This comes after some say his social media commentary encouraged Wednesday’s riots at the U.S. Capitol.
For months, the social media landscape has been littered with political posts. The conversation in these spaces has been tense before and after the election.
“None of it contributed to reducing tensions. All of it increased blood pressure across the nation,” said Hanley.
People who spoke with NBC Connecticut Thursday say they believe social media has escalated tensions. This is based upon what they’ve seen personally on their feeds.
“I’ve definitely seen friends and family arguing. People deleting people, a lot of false information,” said Tara Bellotti-Girouard of Middlebury.
Because of this environment, social media has become an uncomfortable space for some.
“It’s frustrating because if you express your views, you’re going to get pushback,” said Angela Borck of Simsbury.
There’s also the issue of misinformation, which is difficult to control on platforms where people have the freedom to share posts.
“It’s all about taking sides nowadays which I don’t think that’s the right thing, but I don’t think censorship is the answer to that either,” said Santhosh Sivajothi of West Hartford.
To ensure accuracy, Hanley encourages people to verify truth by fact-checking all political posts through a credible source.
Ensuring accuracy, though, is a two-way street. Hanley’s advice is to take personal responsibility for any materials you share.
“Think first before you share. Before you tweet,” he said.