Commentary – With hundreds of millions of users on social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, large communities have been created around topical areas of interest such as sports, religion, politics and health. “Citizen journalism” has also spread, particularly on YouTube, where fans hold interviews with celebrities captured on amatuer video devices.
Citizen journalism and citizen editorials, however, fall short of traditional standards of objectivity, ethics, insight, first-hand accounts and expert analysis. Users of social media sites must be careful in harboring expectations of professionalism from fan-made editorials and interviews.
Confirmation Bias >
Usually, amateur interviews and video editorials are no more than fan expressions that do not meet the test of professional journalism. Commentary on social media platforms are therefore littered with what psychologists refer to as confirmation bias — a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.
Most fan-based channels exhibit this phenomenon which should reduce their credibility in the skeptical minds of an educated public. Confirmation bias can be readily observed when fan-based channels predict favorable results for their local sports teams, thereby spreading (biased) analysis that is invalid and lacking necessary objectivity.
Fan users creating citizen editorials on YouTube does not mean social media has increased the presence of professional commentary online. Indeed, what is conveyed through the videos merely precipitate attacks and callous comments from viewers, and the discussion drastically goes downhill from there.
While these new platforms are themselves neutral in a way that technology is itself neutral, users should treat most uploaders for what they are: amateur and lacking in the basic skills that make for valid and dependable conclusions. These are fine per fan enthusiasm, not much else.
Take the following thought experiments. You want to bet a large sum of money, say $10 million, on an upcoming sporting event. Do you steer your wager based on the prediction of a fan-based channel, with the user most likely exhibiting confirmation bias towards one team over another? If so, you will have made a choice based on personal bias without supporting data or statistics.
That’s not how the real world works. Neither should you.