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New Podcast Episode Tackles Intersection of Social Media and Democracy


Social media can be harmful to a functioning democracy — but it has the potential to be helpful as well, according to a panel of Ross School of Business professors.

Speaking on an election-themed episode of the new podcast Business and Society with Michigan Ross, three professors said that the technology of social media isn’t really the issue so much as how it’s used.

On the podcast, Ross Professors Marcus Collins, Ethan Kross, and Mohamed Mostagir discuss why social media is such a powerful force in society, how social platforms can spread misinformation, how social-media companies could act more responsibly, and ultimately, how the industry affects our democracy.

Kross said on the podcast that learning how to navigate in the online world is key, just as in the physical world. “I'm a parent; the first thing I do with my kids is teach them how to navigate spaces, how to talk to people, where to go, what to say, when to do this versus that. We haven't had that kind of collective knowledge for navigating social media. I think we're developing it,” he said. “But we need to be mindful of the fact that there is the potential dark side, and I think we need to do everything we can to stay away from that.”

Collins argued that social media simply magnifies tendencies that have always been present in human interaction, such as seeking out “echo chambers” of like-minded people. “We have to decide, do we let these things live so that the greater population can convey the way it needs to be? Do you rely on the human conditioning for good to outweigh the bad? We're watching that in prime time right now here in the United States. The social networking platforms may exacerbate the behaviors, but the behaviors are what we've always been as humans.”

Mostagir added that social media is “neither good or bad; it's how we use it, really … But this is sort of new to all of us, right? There is no commonly developed etiquette for how you deal with these social media spaces.”

In addition to the discussion of social media and democracy, the podcast also features an interview with Professor Julia Lee Cunningham about her recent research into why some people are reluctant to take on leadership roles.

Business and Society with Michigan Ross explores the different ways the business world interacts with our broader society. The format of the show includes two segments: A small panel of Michigan Ross professors discussing a current public issue, followed by an interview with another professor about their latest impactful research. The first episode addressed the question “Is the American Corporation Doomed?”

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