The Unintentional Backfire Effect

From Avery’s blog post “Persuasion vs. Awareness” I share similar feelings regarding what impact a single person can have vs. an entire group on someone’s beliefs. I believe that Avery’s statement, “The sad truth is that they may forget it within the next twenty-four hours” reveals how hard people sometimes need to work in order to affect someone. I believe the collective statement that we are working on in class has the potential to change people’s opinions about what Geneseo’s study abroad programs are about. Although the statement may have the potential to change a study abroad students view on what the program is about, I fear that it could possibly result in the backfire effect if the person presenting the material does not know how to properly present it to a student seeking to volunteer abroad.

When Dr. Muench and Dr. Kennison spoke to our class, we were open to hearing their experiences about the study abroad programs they ran and ‌volunteerism on these trips. Being that the class was open to inviting Dr. Muench and Dr. Kennison into the class, there was no noticeable backfire effect. However, if a potential study abroad student is handed our collective course statement and is only motivated to volunteer for their own benefit, the backfire effect could occur.

I view the backfire effect as a social problem that American society has created and is continually influenced through social media. Have you ever noticed on Facebook that ads appear on your timeline? That is not a coincidence. Many of the items you look at online to purchase are tracked and put on social media outlets to grab your attention. Have you ever noticed that advertisements appear that are related to items you looked at. I am an avid shoe shopper and many of the ads that appear on my social media accounts are for women’s shoes, not mens because I don’t search for mens. What many people don’t realize, is that social media is controlling what we see, not only for items that we could buy, but also in the information that we absorb by being on these sites. Not only is this a marketing scheme, but is also used to control what articles you see and read. Over the past year I have read a lot of political articles regarding President Trump, and although the 2016 presidential election is over, Trump articles still appear in my news feed and on my computer browser although I no longer search for them. Furthermore, multiple studies have been tested on social media marketing, and many of these studies have shown that the media shows us what they want us to see. The way I view the backfire effect with regard to our collective course statement is that if someone goes into the study abroad office seeking to personally benefit from medical volunteerism, they may view our statement as a defense and believe that they are justified in seeking to volunteer abroad to benefit themselves.

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