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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Western chapter.

With social media being so integrated into our everyday lives, it’s no wonder that we use it for everything, especially to express our opinions about topics and events around the world. Social media has aided in amplifying voices around the world to bring different and contrasting opinions on various social issues and made discourse about certain issues almost inevitable. However, how much of this posting and interaction promotes productive discussions and spreads messages of activism?


Social media’s vast tools have made the re-sharing and mass distribution of certain opinions seamless, and we do it without thinking. Whenever we send out that post on our Instagram story that we saw our friend post, we amplify an opinion someone else had. Social media posting is very direct and to the point. There’s little time to take in different sides or opinions to something. So, we post our opinions online as facts for people to see. And that’s what other people see, our opinion and minimal context surrounding it. 

When making a post, especially an opinionated one or about social issues, our hope is ultimately to connect and get people to agree. The intention is to get people to hear our voices and opinions because we believe it matters and that this certain topic needs to be spoken about. The fact that we can choose not to respond or interact with different opinions makes our opinions even more of a statement and something that can be perceived as fact. 


Dr. Michael Workman, associate professor of technology management at Texas A&M University, conducted a study to see how people perceive social media posts and how it affects their opinions. He found that social media can either perpetuate existing beliefs or it can influence beliefs if someone does not already have an opinion on the topic they are seeing on social. This means that people won’t have their minds changed by the posts they are seeing on social media unless they don’t already have an opinion on it. 

Algorithms that are so fundamental for social media have a huge helping hand in how people perceive posts as they allow platforms to reinforce information that we already want to see and amplify. Therefore, we are far less likely to see opinions different from our own unless someone we follow shares them. Then when we see them and already have a formed opinion, that post won’t change or challenge any pre-existing opinions.


So what, then? Is posting on social media about our opinions and social issues useless? If we can’t change opinions and have productive discussions with people who have different views, what should we do about it?

Social media is complex and will inherently result in complex interactions with people online. However, it’s also not going anywhere and we have to learn to make use of it productively. The first thing we have to do is recognize that there are so many experiences and opinions, and we have to be open to them. Acknowledging other views and people is a vital step toward having discussions rather than people just posting their opinions, but not communicating. This could open people to more information and make discourse more cooperative.

Another aspect is seeking information and opinions outside of social media. Looking at articles or expert information can help us understand a topic more thoroughly and not rely on social media and others’ opinions to form our own. Workman encompassed this by saying, “We fail when we do not study the issue to understand its complexities to make an informed decision.”

Lastly, to go further, we should speak to people in person who have different opinions and get behind the screens to have discussions and express our opinions in a more personal way. This way we not only get others to listen, but there is a more real conversation to be had about things we are passionate about.

I'm Mariana Molina, a third-year political science and media student at the University of Western Ontario. I am a writer for Her Campus with interests in current events, lifestyle and culture.