(Megan Knight, Associate Dean, University of Hertfordshire)
Washington, November 5 (The Conversation) Social media platforms are a great source of information and entertainment. They also help us keep in touch with friends and family, but social media can also be, and have become, a toxic platform for promoting misinformation, hatred, and conflict.
Most people can’t or don’t want to stay away from social media. Efforts by courts and government bodies to regulate or incorporate it are gradually increasing but have so far been unsuccessful.
Social media users face a dilemma: how to benefit from social media without being exposed to disturbing, harmful, or illegal content. This has become an issue in times of increasing global tension and conflict. Both the conflict in Ukraine and the Gaza war have increased the risk of seeing horrific and harmful images in one’s ‘feed’.
Based on my research into news on social media, this article provides guidance on editing your social media feed to ensure that the content you see is tailored to your needs and not distracting.
It is classified into broad social media categories. I’m not talking about new services like Threads, Mastodon, Post, and BlueSky, but these principles generally apply. I’ve focused on using these apps on mobile phones because that’s what most users do. I’m mostly focusing on video content.
Social media can be a powerful tool for sharing information and learning but it also has its drawbacks. Whatever approach you take to managing your feed, be cautious and skeptical. Pay attention to upcoming updates to policies and user consents, and think carefully about who you trust and follow.
Organizations and people invest their money and time to ensure that people see their posts. It is also important to remember that paid content is not just goods and services for sale but can also have a political or social agenda and is often hidden. This is the basis for fake news and deliberate misinformation.
The key to this on all social media platforms except TikTok is to carefully select the people you follow.
The best option on Twitter (now X) is to stay away from the “For You” page (which is the default view) and focus on the “Following” page. You can’t delete the “For You” page completely. The “Following” feed includes everyone you follow, including their Tweets and retweets.
The easiest way to clean up your Facebook News Feed is to “unfriend” accounts. Another option is to “unfollow” someone who’s on your friends list, they can see your posts but their posts won’t appear in your feed unless you “mention” them. Or you can “take a break” from someone, which is a form of temporary blocking. Blocking is the last option. This will remove them from your friend list and you will not see any of their posts.
Instagram also gives you similar options to unfollow and mute.
TikTok has limited options for users to modify their feed.
Many social media platforms have options to limit violent or graphic content. On Facebook it is hidden in ‘Settings’. From there you click on News Feed and then ‘Reduce’. You can’t delete this content, but you can remove it from your feed.
Since social media is not designed to be controlled by the user this is not a perfect guide. These companies are based on user participation, the more time you spend on their app, the more money they earn. They are particularly unwilling to ensure that content posted on social media is helpful or accurate.
The Conversation Gola Simmi