Social Media: Uncertainty and Distrust

The social media has led to a substantial increase in polarization in the past few years, leading to an atmosphere of uncertainty and distrust.

The social media has led to a substantial increase in polarization in the past few years, leading to an atmosphere of uncertainty and distrust. The netizens around the country are now caught between accurate and distorted news. People have started to lose interest even in state-controlled media, let alone private news channels. The widely used platforms, including X (Formerly Twitter), Instagram and Facebook are patently a fine source of communication and knowledge sharing. However, due to its multiplier factor, the flow of information has massively increased, creating a mess for the public to differentiate between truth and false.

In the past decade, these platforms have been used by certain entities to spread fake news and propaganda. The accounts’ privacy in these tools makes it hard for the authorities to trace back the users who run them. Unfortunately, in such situations, the only viable option left for the government is to put a ban on these platforms, which might help in the short run but not in the long term – as these platforms are also a source of disseminating public service messages. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media applications served exceptionally in circulating public announcements.

The mainstream media outlets cannot function effectively alone to deliver a message to the public – because the attention span of people is very low and so they rely more on social media for concise news. For instance, the awareness of security threats on a large scale is only possible through social media – given the huge presence of netizens. Perhaps that is why the government ultimately lifts the ban as usual after some time. However, replaying the same methods over and over is not the solution.

This a ‘Post-Truth Era,’ where objective facts have less part in shaping public opinion as compared to sentiments and personal beliefs of individuals. People are quite emotional today and respond to things that align with their ideology – thus neglecting rationality and logic. The irony is that even the educated class falls victim to fake news and propaganda – simply accepting it because it supports their thought. Despite knowing that incoming news is suspicious, believing it without verification is merely a question of sincerity to self.

X (formerly Twitter) is the widely used platform where people share their opinions on various issues – mostly related to political discourse. Elon Musk, when he took hold of X, removed the blocking feature and filters for its users, making it more vulnerable to biased opinions and wrong information. However, for the government of Pakistan to simply ban the platform is not the way forward because users have already found the alternative “VPN”. And in fact, it will further question the transparency of the system. This is perhaps the most crucial part of Pakistan’s history, as people are now getting more interested in politics than ever before. They are keen to know what is happening between the top leadership of Pakistan.

In such a chaotic situation, it undeniably comes to individuals’ responsibility to see through the blurred lines. When it comes to the political sphere, things are trickier. The content that politicians or any other influencers share on social media has the capacity to test your critical thinking. Majority of the social media users mostly share things without even verifying them. The incoming news might be disinformation, intended to deceive the receiver. So, perhaps the first thing is to get yourself educated or critically prepared enough to differentiate between correct information and disinformation.

The second most important thing is the credibility of the sources. It might be a bit absurd to say but even the influencers with verified accounts on social media platforms share baseless content which maligns the minds of other common users. Influencers want viewership, they earn money through these platforms. On critically analyzing the shared content one might observe that the information is too good to be true. It is easy to believe in things without double-checking them with other sources but to survive the trap of propaganda, verifying it first is the one way out.

Lastly, the users must get into the depth of things. Instead of simply believing in the headlines, they should go beyond them and do some research. Whenever the users receive any news, they might refer to print media for further clarification. The body of the articles in newspapers contains a detailed note on various issues which might help in understanding the message clearly. Relying solely on a single sentence is the same as getting half the information. Therefore, each issue or case must be studied and analyzed deeply. These are some handful of things that might help netizens from falling into the hands of propagandists. In addition, the government should run awareness campaigns about the misuse of social media because the prospects seem alarming!

Muhtasim Afridi
Muhtasim Afridi
The writer is an editorial intern at the Associated Press of Pakistan; he can be reached at: muhtasimafridi166[at]