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The Potency of Social Media on People’s Perception of Climate Change 

Writer: Dilvin Lacin


Climate change has been a widely debated topic for several decades. However, the development of effective policies and strategies has been hindered by several challenges. On the other hand, social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have provided opportunities for the general public to share opinions and engage with the issue of climate change like never before. This phenomenon is considered to be a new form of soft power that can provide input into the discussion and potentially influence international political mechanisms. This article mainly focuses on the effect of social media on people's perception of climate change (Yan, 2021).


Numerous studies have investigated the correlation between social media and public awareness of climate change. A study shows that an analysis of the impacts of social media on people's opinions, knowledge, and behavior. The study found that social media sharing can raise awareness and promote environmentally-friendly behavior, but it can also lead to opinion silos and reinforcement, which can have both positive and negative effects on the issue of climate change. Some studies analyzed a large dataset from Twitter and observed that users are often segregated in like-minded communities, with fewer people expressing less polarized opinions. Other studies have focused on the social media framing of the IPCC reports, the volume of climate change discussions on social media, and the reasons behind climate change unbelief in online discussions, such as in blogs. Little research, however, has been done on the role of social media as a trigger or a support tool for bottom-up initiatives and the extent to which those are effective in leading to practical change in policy development and implementation. In trying to answer some of these questions, the authors of the current paper took a new approach, looking at social media as a soft power tool, using the definitions from International Relations theory, to underline the potential power of social media as a driver of change in tackling the negative effects of climate change (Pearce et al., 2018; Mavrodieva et al., 2019; Parry et al., 2021; Yan, 2021).


To fully understand how social media affects people's understanding of climate change, we need to examine how information is shared. Social media gives everyone a platform to speak their minds, so people from different backgrounds can all contribute their views. However, the sheer amount of information being shared can lead to false information spreading and people only hearing opinions that match their own. We also need to consider the role of influencers and activists on social media. People with many followers can have a significant impact on what the public thinks about climate change. By using powerful pictures, personal stories, and emotional content, they can inspire people to take action or create even more division (Mavrodieva et al., 2019; León et al., 2021).


In addition, social media's ability to provide instant communication allows for swift reactions to environmental happenings, like natural calamities or news related to the climate. This real-time connectivity nurtures a feeling of worldwide community and urgency, inspiring people to partake in conversations, exchange information, and embrace environmentally friendly behaviors. Exposure to distressing content regarding climate change can result in eco-anxiety and environmental fatigue. The abundance of information, together with the sense of an approaching crisis, can adversely affect mental health, leading to emotions of helplessness and despondency (Pearce et al., 2018; Mavrodieva et al., 2019; León et al., 2021).


Social media is playing an increasingly important role in shaping public discourse around climate change. It is essential for policymakers, activists, and the general public to critically evaluate the impact of social media on the way we perceive, discuss, and take action on climate change. While social media has the potential to positively influence public opinion and drive change, it also presents certain challenges that must be addressed. This is necessary for creating a more informed and resilient society that can effectively respond to the complex issue of climate change (León et al., 2021).


References

Pearce, W., Niederer, S., Özkula, S. M., & Sánchez Querubín, N. (2018). The social media life of climate change: Platforms, publics, and future imaginaries. WIREs Clim Change

Mavrodieva, A.  RachmanV.,, O. K., Harahap, V. B., & Shaw, R. (2019). Role of Social Media as a Soft Power Tool in Raising Public Awareness and Engagement in Addressing Climate Change. Climate, 7, 122. 

León, B., Bourk, M., Finkler, W., Boykoff, M., & Davis, L. S. (2021). Strategies for climate change communication through social media: objectives, approach, and interaction. Media International Australia, 188(1), 112-127. 

Parry, S., McCarthy, S. R., & Clark, J. (2021). Young people's engagement with climate change issues through digital media – a content analysis. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 27(1), 30-38. 

Yan, N. (2021). Social Media Is Redistributing Power. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 9(6), June 2021. 


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