School Leaders Need to Recognize How Social Media Is Broken

Social media is broken. No matter what evangelistic talk you hear from the brotherhood-for-the-advancement-of-social-media, it has some serious problems that educational leaders would do well to examine closely. Often promoted as the media for school leaders to “get their message out,” social media has become a polluted cesspool of misinformation, incivility, and deception. It is a powerful tool for propagandists and marketers who are more interested in promoting themselves, their products rather than the truth. Social media has become irredeemably infected with what Michael Lynch calls “information pollution.”

Lynch (2019) writes:

“Information pollution is dumping potentially toxic information onto the media environment. Information can be toxic in different ways, but he most obvious ways are by being false (misinformation),  intentionally deceptive and misleading (disinformation), or simply not based on any evidence at all.” (Lynch, 2019, p. 31).

Social media has become the ideal channel for distributing “information pollution.” If has dumped so much toxic misinformation sludge into discourse, we have individuals wandering about our society like zombies, enveloped in cocoons of alternative facts from which they may never escape.

When information pollution was confined mainly to supermarket tabloids, its reach was limited. Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn has now replaced this tabloid rack as the conduit for the bizarre, the nonsensical. Social media has become the conduit for delivering non-sense to the masses.

Educational leaders have been encouraged to engage social media. I myself have been guilty of trying to convince them of engaging in using Facebook, Twitter…yet, I am firmly convinced that social media in its present form is a media that too easily pollutes our world with deception and misinformation. School leaders would do well to be skeptical of those who still claim that social media is a valid media.

So what should be social media’s status with school leaders? It is rather simple…school leaders need to maintain a skepticism and ethos of critique towards it. We need to come to terms with its limitations. Social media is a powerful enabler of misinformation and inauthenticity. It is not the miracle media that will provide opportunities for schools and school districts to better their standing with the public. It is simply a propagandist tool that allows users to manufacture a world in their own image. 

Lynch, M. (2019). Know-it-all society: Truth and Arrogance in Political Culture. Liveright Publications: New York, NY.