How to be a Critical Viewer of Social Media

Social media has become a fundamental component of our society over the past two decades, with many of us utilizing social apps daily. Due to the influx of democratic information being presented to us, it can be difficult to distinguish credible information from opinionated or ad-targeted information.

Two clarifying questions to ask yourself next time you’re scrolling:

  1. What biases is my feed confirming? – There is a reason why social media apps are free… because you’re the product! They profit from showing you as many ads as possible. To achieve the goal of keeping you online, your algorithm will adapt to your interests and beliefs. This involves bumping up content that confirms your biases and limiting exposure to differing perspectives.
  2. How is this content making me feel? – Be aware of your emotional reactions to the content you’re viewing, as advertisers can utilize emotional reactions to influence opinions. Through building awareness, you can develop more control over which media messages you internalize.

Three tips to develop critical thinking skills for social media: 

  1. Keep Learning – Especially for topics that pique your interest, continuously search for further, reliable information. Consult with diverse sources as well to ensure you’re not falling into confirmation bias. Most concepts require deeper research to be fully understood.
  2. Get comfortable with Knowledge Uncertainty – Even though there is no way that you can know everything, it can be difficult to admit when you don’t know something. When learning new information, aim to stay curious and let go of the need to be right. By allowing the uncertainty that comes with challenging your beliefs, you’re more open to the diverse, depth of information about that topic.
    “Only through embracing confusion, or embracing a state of not knowing, can you allow the space for you to achieve a deeper understanding of subjects” – Robin Waldun
  3. Take Social Media Breaks – Intentionally limiting your screentime can encourage a range of benefits, from improving your physical health to lowering levels of stress. Removing the stimulation from social media also allows you to connect more with yourself and your own thoughts/ beliefs, which can help you to maintain a balanced perspective.

May you enjoy your favorite memes with the intention of mindful scrolling!

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