The Science of Manipulation on Social Media

Social media is a very complex platform, and the manipulation within it is very confusing. We all see influencers and celebrities talking about products or events — even about politics. And because of the misinformation and the uncertainty, we can be manipulated easily. But what is this media manipulation that we all know about, and how can we avoid being manipulated by people?


Media manipulation is a kind of manipulation, and even though the real definition of manipulation is different from the proper definition of media manipulation, we can simply say that media manipulation is “the science of shaping a story, a product or an event in order to control and/or change people’s ideas on the topic”. Disinformation, to mislead people intentionally, and misinformation, to mislead people regardless, are the most common techniques of manipulation in media.


The main reason why it is so effortless to manipulate people on media is that the media is fashioned by individuals who are looking forward to sharing their life with their followers. And even though the journey of social media did not involve money at first, right now, most people do this job to earn money. The fact that there are a lot of people on media who do this job just for the money makes people insecure about the products they are influenced to buy.


As said before, disinformation is one of the most dangerous and important parts of media manipulation. It refers to both the creation and distribution of the intended false information in media. What makes it so dangerous is that it is hard to fight against disinformation. To fight disinformation; technologists, scientists, experts, writers, and academics all need to work together to prove the truth. And even though they prove the “truth”, a lot of people would be under the influence of the “wrong”.


But how can we identify media manipulation? How can we understand this phenomenon and not be manipulated? Well, this is a hard question, but like all questions, it has an answer. You just need to follow three steps:


The first step is to be sure about the dependability of the source. If you are reading or hearing this information from an encyclopedia or a book, there is a high chance that you are not being manipulated. But, unfortunately, in some recent books, writers have become not objective or truthful. This is a big issue because of the long-known fact that “books are trusted”. We all think that books are more trusted and objective than websites, but now the trustworthiness of books is not in a very good situation. Therefore, if you are looking for information about a situation, you need to be sure about the source and its credibility.


The second step is to review the comments. It is a well-known fact that these days, some writers and influencers buy good comments and delete the bad ones. Because of this, you need to be more critical. The fact that there are no bad comments on a book or on a video does not show that the writer/influencer is trustworthy. Thus, you should look at the comments and read what people think about the source.



And the last step is to consider your own ideas about the topic. Yes, you can disagree with what you read or listen to. Yes, everything you read in the media cannot be true. And yes, sometimes you might be the one who is “wrong”. But this does not show that you are illiterate or ignorant. This means that you are not scared of being wrong, and you care about your opinions.


Social media is one of the most important parts of our daily lives now. It helps us get through to knowledge; it helps us see the people we care about, and it helps - actually, causes - us to be influenced and even manipulated. Being manipulated is, of course, not the ideal scenario, but it is a part of our lives. The most important thing is to try to go back to the “truth”, even if we get manipulated at first.


Works Cited

"The Lifecycle of Media Manipulation." Data Journalism, datajournalism.com/read/handbook/verification-3/investigating-disinformation-and-media-manipulation/the-lifecycle-of-media-manipulation.

"Media Manipulation 101: What Is It and How Can You Spot It?" Echosec, www.echosec.net/blog/media-manipulation.

"Social media manipulation by political actors an industrial scale problem - Oxford report." University of Oxford, www.ox.ac.uk/news/2021-01-13-social-media-manipulation-political-actors-industrial-scale-problem-oxford-report.

"What Is Media Manipulation?--A Definition and Explanation." Forbes, www.forbes.com/sites/ryanholiday/2012/07/16/what-is-media-manipulation-a-definition-and-explanation/?sh=2082a7813939.

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