The Falsity of Framing

Is it “global warming” or “climate change?” Are they classified as “Illegal Immigrants” or “undocumented workers?” Is it an “estate tax” or a “death tax?”

Depending on the story you are telling or the message you are trying to convey, it could be any one of the options, or even neither! 

The strategic way of referring to an issue or practice by highlighting and downplaying its different aspects is a persuasive communication tool called framing. 

We see framing every day on the news and on social media. It’s everywhere! From a neighbor sharing a web article on Facebook about a political debate to the local news station broadcasting a segment on traffic officials and their questionable actions, we witness the effects of persuasive storytelling in society every day. 

Once altered news is circulated, the story or message itself is set in such a way that people in society can be misinformed about events from the false news, or change their perspective and opinions based on biased information. 

Let me give you a hypothetical example of framing. 

Let’s say that a girl went on a date with a boy who was a good date and treated her well, opened the door for her, complimented her, and was very gentlemanly, but also checked his phone periodically through the night, her biggest pet peeve. 

Later on, she chooses to share her story with her friends, only highlighting the fact that he had been on his phone. This lens in which she places her story depicts the boy to be a disrespectful date, when in fact he may not have been. 

Framing causes many issues, but it is a key persuasive tool for news outlets and writers everywhere; the best thing we in society can do is try to verify what information we find, and always take new information in with a skeptical but curious eye.

Homophily and How We Treat Others

How many friends do you have? What characteristics do you find in common with each of them? Maybe you have a bunch of friends who dress a lot like you, or participated in the same kind of activities with you in high school or college. 

You may be surprised at how similar you are to the people you most often associate with. But it’s not merely happenstance that you and your friends are alike. 

The tendency for people to affiliate with others who are like them is called homophily. It’s a way that individuals segregate themselves into groups where they find that they most “fit in.” 

We can all remember the cliques and groups of friends in high school; those groups who sat together at lunch and never tried to reach beyond their posse to find a new pal. In fact, we were all likely a part of one of those groups. 

Whether we classified ourselves into groups based on race, hobbies or teams, or even by popularity, we were always finding those people we most related to in order to find a place where we belonged. 

This tendency is very common even outside of school. It can even be seen with what social media platforms we choose to use. For example, those with more education and/or more income are much more likely to use more professional and business-related platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, and are better able to network with those they associate with through these platforms than any others. A study in 2008 found that students at wealthier high schools in San Francisco more commonly used Facebook, while the students at poorer schools tended to use Myspace. 

Who we choose to associate with can be a great tell as to who we find ourselves to be. And while it is mostly an innocent phenomenon in and of itself, the self-segregation aspect of homophily can lead to bullying and other negative effects of discrimination. 

It’s great that we can find friends that we relate to and are similar to, just as long as we are careful not to treat others outside of our friend groups unkindly.

The Consequences of Comparison

We’ve all done it. Because we are always on our phones or laptops browsing through social media, we are always seeing others’ lives, and, consequently, we are involuntarily comparing ourselves to those around us. 

Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow users to post photographs and small textual updates, and often these posts offer only a small snapshot of what that person’s life is like. The increased use of social media today has been linked to a decline in positive body image; this means that when we are viewing others’ social media posts, we are being bombarded with their perfections in stark contrast to our own glaring imperfections. 

Whether or not that brief post or picture is accurate to what that person is experiencing on a daily basis, social media posts are most often limited to a positive, “best foot forward” or “best-case scenario” view of someone, which leads to this comparison of strengths to weaknesses. This phenomenon is called the Social Comparison Theory, where we evaluate and are critical of ourselves or others based on how we measure up to each other.

For example, if you see that your friend is constantly posting award-worthy pictures of their adventures on their study abroad or vacation, you may feel that your friend is more social than you, or that you have lower worth because your bank account says that you cannot do the same activities or have the same opportunities. 

Similarly, if you were to see someone post something that was spelled incorrectly, or was horrendously wrong or “immature,” you may find in your comparison that you are a much better person because you would never post something so “childish” or make such a mistake. 

Comparing ourselves to others can be extremely detrimental to our health, and we need to either limit our social media usage to prevent making these subconscious judgments on ourselves and others, or step back and try to have a more positive view of ourselves and others entirely.

Citizen Journalism: The Press and the People

You’ve likely seen it as you scroll through your social media feeds, and you may have even posted its content yourself; citizen journalism is an extremely efficient and important method of sharing news and information today. Many people first hear word of events and breaking news through virally shared posts. 

But what is citizen journalism?

Citizen journalism, a type of user-generated content, happens when nonprofessional journalists – anyone from a social media influencer with thousands of followers to your elderly next-door neighbor who only just figured out how to “like” and “share” content – produce and disseminate “journalistic knowledge” to the general public, often through a social media platform or similar channel. This act of regular people posting opinions or sharing articles to educate others on the internet about issues and even events has grown steadily more common as more social media platforms and websites that allow easy and quick uploads of photos and written content have allowed the dissemination of information to become more widely available and more easily spread.

Social Media Platforms

Social media is such a mainstream essential in our lives today; much of our free time is spent online swiping through feeds of pictures and videos posted by our friends. There are so many different ways to view and post updates on many different sites. 

These different sites, or “apps” as they are called in their mobile versions, are also referred to as Platforms, which serve to coordinate these interpersonal interactions in unique ways designed to have distinctive and different experiences for the users. 

Some platforms allow you to post videos, photos, or even simply textual updates, while others allow for only one of the main mediums. 

For example, the relatively new platform TikTok offers the unique opportunity to post pre-recorded videos with original or preexisting audio, often pulled from films or television shows; users can even take videos already posted by other users and record a “duet,” allowing their new video to be joined to the existing one, as though they had filmed together. Many trends have come from this platform, and lots of undiscovered songs and shows have gained fame and popularity solely from this source. Users can also comment on existing videos, use the icons on the side to like, share, or save a video, and even follow certain users to get more of their content to come up in their feed. 

TikTok has become so popular among teens and young adults that compilation videos of the most popular or “liked” content are shared widely on other platforms like FaceBook, YouTube, and InstaGram, which only garners more curiosity and interest in the video-based platform. It’s hard to have even a single day go by where one doesn’t encounter and enjoy the content produced on this platform. 

So many different kinds of platforms can seem excessive, but if each are unique and specialized, any user could find a way they personally like best to communicate with others and creatively express themselves.