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Ch. Muhammad Natiq Ubaid

The author is a defense and strategic affairs analyst and a geopolitics expert. E-mail: [email protected]


Hilal English

The Media Matrix: Unraveling How Technology Shapes Our Perception

February 2024

In today's era, media holds immense influence and impacts various aspects of our lives. It has become a powerful tool, even in warfare, where invading nations can manipulate narratives, sow divisions, and shape public opinion without the need for physical presence.

It is said that perception is reality, and it is rightly said. There are two types of people in this world: those who view the glass as half full and those who see the glass as half empty. This phenomenon is called perception, and our perceptions profoundly impact how we experience life. Perception molds, shapes, and influences the experience of our reality. It is merely a lens or mindset from which we view people, events, and things.
Perception shapes our reality, leading us to believe in what we see and experience as an undeniable truth, much like the rising and setting of the sun. However, it is essential to recognize that our brain's interpretation and calculation of events may not always align with the true nature of what is perceived. This world is full of deception, and we live in an age where our perceptions are controlled and modeled for specific goals.
Let's take an example of the advertisements we see and observe daily through print, electronic or new media. We tend to buy things that have nothing to do with our needs or requirements because our perceptions are modeled through advertisements, and we are influenced to buy them subliminally. Our desires and needs are modified or designed to fulfill someone else's needs by putting messages in our heads and controlling our thoughts.

Digital information is designed systematically for minds to accept it and compile them to achieve goals. People forward it to like-minded or social media groups to show off how informative they have been. Spread is uncontrollable, and authenticity is decided by how many tweets have been made on a specific news.

Cartoon characters, movies, and dramas have a significant impact on our perceptions, often leading us to witness individuals around us emulating those fictional characters. It is not uncommon to observe people attempting to shape their lives based on the traits and behaviors of their beloved characters, striving to incorporate those qualities into the everyday existence. Many criminal activities and crimes were committed by people who had developed their perceptions of right and wrong, fun and enthusiasm, and action and adventure through media.
In our current era, media exerts a pervasive influence over all aspects of our lives. This powerful tool has even been utilized in warfare, rendering physical invasion unnecessary for conquering nations. Media can strategically propagate conspiracies and divisions, imposing particular narratives upon a nation's collective consciousness. Throughout centuries, it has played a transformative role in shaping cultures and influencing religious beliefs. Historical evidence demonstrates that media has been instrumental in molding the mindsets, thoughts, and livelihoods of entire civilizations.
With the amalgamation of new technology, media is changing the course of history. Today, war is fought and lands are won by manipulating reality. Instances have arisen where political goals have been achieved through the utilization of technology, manipulating and attributing words or actions to individuals that they never actually uttered or engaged in. A pertinent example that highlights the influence of media is the emergence of counterfeit audio recordings featuring esteemed and influential individuals within society. Furthermore, we have witnessed the circulation of misleading videos in the media, propagating false narratives. These manipulative tactics often result succeeded in fueling divisions and contributing to civil unrest.

Social Media can manage, monitor and watch every individual all around the globe. It can influence 7.9 billion individuals.

This technology, both powerful and perilous, is now readily accessible to individuals. Numerous applications available on the Google Play Store and Apple Store allow users to manipulate their voices, switching between male and female tones effortlessly. Additionally, face-altering apps enable users to superimpose their own faces onto the bodies of celebrities, enabling them to envision themselves assuming iconic roles in movies or even performing famous songs by artists.
This technology has the potential to sway ordinary individuals, leading to the accomplishment of significant objectives. The Arab Spring serves as a notable example, where entrenched authorities and old power structures were upended by the mobilization of the masses. However, it is crucial to recognize that such manipulations and the convergence of technology and media have also been catalysts for fueling civil conflicts. In the present era, influential individuals and regimes strive to control media channels as a means to assert their dominance and exert influence on a global scale.
A study by a celebrated Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientist has proved that false news spreads more rapidly, faster, and farther on the social network Twitter than real news. "We found that falsehood diffuses significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth, in all categories of information, and many cases by order of magnitude," says Sinan Aral, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and co-author of a new paper detailing the findings.
The simpler and faster options of forwarding anything to the masses have made Twitter and other social media networks a menace in terms of spreading false and fabricated news worldwide through a click "retweet." Digital information is designed systematically for minds to accept it and compile them to achieve goals. People forward it to like-minded or social media groups to show off how informative they have been. Spread is uncontrollable, and authenticity is decided by how many tweets have been made on a specific news.

This world is full of deception, and we live in an age where our perceptions are controlled and modeled for specific goals.

The study provides a variety of ways of quantifying this phenomenon. For instance, false news stories are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories. It also takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false reports to get the same number of people. Twitter's cascades, or unbroken retweet chains, and falsehoods reach a cascade depth of 10, about 20 times faster than facts. And falsehoods are retweeted by unique users more broadly than factual statements at every cascade depth.
In addition to intentional news fragmentation, another factor contributing to the spread of false information is its novelty. Research suggests that people are more inclined to share novel or newsworthy information, including false news, which can lead to its rapid dissemination. On social networks, people can gain attention by being the first to share previously unknown but possibly false information. People who share novel information are seen as being in the know. This race of being the first to put up news on their walls gives rise to falsehood, spreading like a storm and demolishing the truth.
Technology and media have become the powerful tools of this era, capable of influencing nations and reshaping territories. They possess a divisive potential that can fracture relationships among siblings who share the same household, food, and economic circumstances. This influence is not confined to the present, but also extends to altering the historical narratives and mythical beliefs that have been entrenched for ages, as they can be manipulated to serve specific agendas and create the desired narratives. We can draw parallels between the movie "Matrix," where individuals were depicted as living in fluid-filled pods with controlled minds connected to a virtual reality, and the influence of social media in our lives. Social media, along with our mobile phones, televisions, and other mediums, can be seen as the modern equivalent of that virtual reality, exerting a significant influence on our thoughts, behaviors, and perceptions. We live in a fabricated, modified, and influenced world where reality is rare and deceptive.
Perceptions shape our reality, but it is essential to approach them with open eyes and a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. It is crucial to verify and learn about an issue before placing belief in any news or information. As Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist stated, "Blind faith, no matter how passionately expressed, will not suffice. Science, for its part, will test relentlessly every assumption about the human condition." Skepticism becomes our highest duty, while blind faith remains the one unpardonable sin, urging us to question and critically evaluate the information we encounter.
Social media and its tools have emerged as prominent actors in the realm of fifth generation warfare, leveraging the manipulation of truth and tailored content to attain the desired outcomes. In this dynamic landscape, heroes are unjustly portrayed as villains, while villains are unjustly exalted as heroes. The innocence of saviors is tainted, while criminals are painted as angels. This deceptive conspiracy primarily targets the younger generation, and those who are retired often fall prey to its allure. To avert the impending disaster, it is imperative that we grasp the true reality and firmly reject the insidious machinations propagated through social media channels.
Here are a few recommendations on how to avoid fake news on social media:
▪   Verify Source. Check the credibility of the source before believing or sharing any news. Look for well-known and reputable news organizations or verified accounts.
▪   Cross-check with Multiple Sources. Don't rely on a single source of information. Compare the news across different sources to ensure its accuracy and avoid biased narratives. Utilize fact-checking websites that specialize in debunking false information. 
Check for Supporting Evidence. Look for supporting evidence, such as official statements, expert opinions, or reliable data, to validate the news. Misleading or fabricated stories often lack credible evidence.
Be Critical and Skeptical. Develop a critical mindset when consuming news on social media. Question the motives behind the news and be wary of sensational headlines or stories designed to evoke strong emotions.
▪ Be Cautious with Clickbait. Avoid clicking on sensationalized or clickbait headlines that often lead to misleading or inaccurate information. Headlines can be misleading, so read the full article before drawing conclusions.
Educate Yourself on Media Literacy. Familiarize yourself with media literacy skills to identify misinformation and propaganda techniques. Learn about logical fallacies, bias, and how to evaluate sources.
Report or Flag False Information. If you come across fake news, report it to the social media platform or flag it as false. This helps in reducing the spread of misinformation and raising awareness.
Remember, being a responsible consumer of news on social media involves actively verifying information and promoting critical thinking.

The author is a defense and strategic affairs analyst and a geopolitics expert.
E-mail: [email protected]


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Ch. Muhammad Natiq Ubaid

The author is a defense and strategic affairs analyst and a geopolitics expert. E-mail: [email protected]