Amazon forest fires. The passing of Kobe Bryant. The spread of the coronavirus. Post after post, story after story, social media platforms are flooded with support for modern-day tragedies. However, are people posting because they genuinely care about the event, or are they trying to fit in with society’s news ‘trends?’
It seems to appear that when a globally impactful news story gets published, people begin to massively spread it and show support. Organizations create campaigns and strategically market them in a way so people are incentivized to donate or share their social media posts. It creates a false sense of contribution for the viewers as they believe they are acting in goodwill for the greater good of society.
Sure, some donations, like funds from the Red Cross for Australian bushfires, do help fund the crisis. But for others, does sharing a social media post really raise money for initiatives? If sharing posts do generate money, what is the mechanism behind it?
When one sees multiple posts online for a social, economic, or political cause, they immediately think that they should share the post as well for the sake of “fitting in” and “showing others that they also support the cause.” For a while, the issue becomes a widespread topic with people from China all the way to Canada discussing the matter.
However, once a new global current event appears, the previous news becomes a part of the past for many, and they jump on board to the new story. Again, organizations create campaigns, people share posts on their social media page, and it becomes a perpetuating cycle. People eventually move on and become less and less interested in older news, even if it is still prominent to date.
Social media also becomes a competition. People are coerced into thinking that if they don’t donate or aren’t aware of such news, they are a bad person because they’re not contributing to resolving the issue. What makes it worse, however, is that many legitimize such thought by posting that they donated or contributed on their social media pages, making the viewer who didn’t feel bad about themselves.
Proponents of social media bandwagon may argue that being parasites on the media is beneficial as it gets many people engaged and updated on current events. However, this impact is only short-term. Once the news dies down, people transfer over to other news events and gradually distance themselves from the initial story they were posting about. Since people are so extrinsically motivated to portray themselves as a supporter for selective trending news only, oftentimes they forget about why they are sharing the post in the first place.
All in all, this article isn’t to say that sharing posts is bad, but rather that society needs to have in-depth conversations that spark one’s critical thinking over gaining satisfaction from one click behind a blue luminescent screen.