3690: A Journal of First-Year Student Research Writing

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Overview: In our current, heavily-modernized society, the Internet and Internet-focused technologies have completely redefined our standard means of communication and have become fully integrated into every aspect of our daily lives. More specifically, the rise of social media platforms has revolutionized the ways by which we spread and interpret information and has allowed people all across the globe the opportunity to make their voices heard. However, these social platforms are anything but flawless systems of communication; in the few years that they have been prominent within society, they have presented our civilization with tumultuous challenges that have severely threatened our already fragile political structures and processes. These challenges, otherwise known as conspiracy theories, have infested the social media landscape, pitting humans against humans and putting their words and ideologies into irreconcilable conflict. Another byproduct of the proliferation of conspiracies is the distortion of truth, which is especially evident when observing what unfolded on social media after the 2020 presidential election. Following Joe Biden’s projected victory over Donald Trump, enraged right-wing supporters took to sites such as Facebook and Twitter proclaiming that the election had been fraudulent, even though no solid evidence indicative of this had been presented or found. Regardless of the lack of evidence, the unsubstantiated claims spread just as aggressively online until more than 60% of republicans reportedly believed that the election was rigged and that Biden won as a result of widespread voter fraud (Forbes). This single example of many serves to illustrate how social media platforms accelerate and promote the spread of conspiracy theories online and how they have blurred the lines between democratic free speech and the anarchical dissemination of unverified statements.

Author's reflection: My name is Jessica D'Amico and I am a media management student at St. John Fisher College. Last spring as part of my Honors Program curriculum, I was able to take a research-based writing class called Conspiracy Theories with Dr. Barbara Lowe. Our class was given the opportunity to write the final paper on any topic concerning conspiracy theories, so I decided to conduct my research on the relationship between social media and the proliferation of modern conspiracy theories. Considering my interest and eventual goal to have a career in the realm of digital communications, I figured that enriching my knowledge about the potential dangers and negatives of social media would serve me well moving forward. Throughout the writing process, I enjoyed compiling my research and I learned a lot about how misinformation on social media can be extremely harmful to our political-social harmony. Overall, I hope that those who read this paper will become better able to identify conspiracies on social media, as well as understand the importance of increased media literacy when looking to obtain information from online sources.

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