The Absence of ‘X’ in Sweden : Have they got it right?

By Sam Owen

Over the past decade or two, Sweden has seen a sharp rise in gang violence and shootings, according to a Swedish visitor to Chester, Karlstad University’s Carina Tenor, who appeared to express some concerns over the direction in the way the country is heading. When we discussed the influence of social media on society, I was stumped to learn that in Sweden, there isn’t a demand for the now Elon Musk owned ‘X’ (formerly Twitter). According to Tenor, some newspapers and other publications will even refuse to report on material from the website and when I enquired about the reasoning behind this, she insisted it was due to the mammoth influx of “conspiracy theories”. Once she had elaborated, I began to decipher the platform’s influence on the media in the UK, especially its infamy for the spread of misinformation, and providing a safe space for extreme right-wing conspiracy theorists. 

Whilst ‘X’ has an immense grasp on the political sphere across the United Kingdom and the United States, I was bewildered to learn from my interview with Tenor that in Sweden, the app is practically defunct. Whilst speaking to the fascinating PHD student on her trip to the UK, we discussed some of the misconceptions about one another’s cultures, namely the way in which our societies operate. Perhaps naively, I had assumed Sweden was a country that ran on the principles of socialism; however, I was quite snappishly informed otherwise.

Some 23 million people in the United Kingdom are active on the social media site X, however perhaps unsurprisingly, the users are predominantly male. With the alarmingly increasing rate of right-wing propaganda and with such a thriving number of male users, there is an engrained culture of misogyny on the platform, which often unfortunately leads to the abuse of people in positions of power, namely politicians and other public figures. A BBC investigation found in late 2022 that some 3,000 toxic or offensive tweets are sent to members of Parliament every single day. 

Over 28% of users on ‘X’ globally are 18-24 years old, perhaps the most impressionable age group that may be receptive to some of the right-wing figures prone to promoting propaganda to suit their narratives. In 2023, Musk reinstated accounts that had previously been suspended over hate speech or general misconduct, usually targeting minority groups with transphobic or misogynistic slurs. 

With 60 plus countries all having major elections this year alone, we are in the midst of a drastic transformation in the political sphere; Social media, especially ‘X’, will inevitably play a pivotal role in all of the upcoming polls. As our society continues to cruise down a turbulent route of both social and political injustice, one thought provoking question remains – where exactly is society heading?

Maybe we need to stop posting… and start talking.

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