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Does Social Media Really Know Who You Are?

Social media thinks they know it all. But is that true?

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Have you ever accidentally clicked or watched videos that are foreign on YouTube and/or Instagram and then all of a sudden, your whole feed is bombarded with content that are in a different language? Or, have you ever clicked on websites out of curiosity and then all of a sudden, all the advertisements on your social media are related to that specific brand or category? Then you ask yourself why are all these uninteresting and comprehensible content showing up in your recommended page.

Social media and third party companies usually sell users' information to each other by using cookies. Internet cookies stores information about the interaction between the user and other websites. This action usually happens without users' consent. Tracking users' cookies allows social media to provide "suitable" content for users. Not only can this enhance users' experience on social media, it also has the power to socially construct users through socially constructed advertisements.

It is very common for social media websites to sell your personal information and browsing history to other companies so they can "sell advertising based on demographic information." This includes users' general information such as sex, age range and most importantly, interest. For example, Google would sell information according to search history and YouTube would sell information according to videos watch.

Social media wants to know if you are interested in cars, fashion, book, etc. Sooner of later, your social media feed will be filled with advertisements that you are interested in or things that you want to buy. This will tempt you to click on these links and allow both social media companies and third parties to earn money.

Some of the time, social media manage to provide relatable content that users can enjoy and draw correlations to. At the same time, some feel paranoid about how well social media knows them as social media tries to socially construct users by controlling and regulating their content according to users' interest.

However, social media fail to realize that their assumptions are wrong most of the time. Majority of the audience do not understand the new, filtered content that is suggested in the feed. Some users might feel that their identities are being questioned and discriminated. In some cases, users might feel offended as their "race, sex, gender, and sexuality" are being challenged. This can be a problem as content and advertisements that are sexist or in another language might make insecure users feel that they do not fit into society, which can eventually lead to lower self-esteem.

For example, social media can make assumptions that a tomboy user is a male. As a result, that user can be exposed to male advertisements such as razor blades and/or male brand clothing commercials. This may make the user feel insecure about their sex as they feel like they do not fit in the social constructed rules of a female which can lower their confidence and self- esteem. Most importantly, they might feel the need to change who they are in order to fit into social norms as they might feel rejected by the society.

Although social media sells users information and attempt to enhance users' experience by providing the most suitable content for the audience, that is not the case majority of the time. Not only can social media provide uninteresting content, it can provide information that makes the users question their identities. These content can make users feel lost as they believe that they do not fit into society.


* Marwick, A. (2013). Online identity. Hartley, J. Burgess, J. & Bruns, A.(eds), A.


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