The Epidemic Of Misinformation

Does anyone else remember when a child placing their hands over their ears and exclaiming “La la la, I can’t hear you. La la la” was a sign of immaturity? From recent experiences it seems that lately, that type of behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged on social media. We are entering election season, which means political posts are flooding many of our Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but the posts, memes, and videos we are inundated with daily are missing one key feature. The majority are completely devoid of facts, and no one cares.

A recent study conducted by Columbia University and the National French Institute showed that 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked. The study went on to find that not only are people blindly sharing the content, but their followers are blindly accepting it and allowing it to shape their political views, only reading the headline or quick summary. The posts are designed to attract gullible tech users into clicking the link, so that the “writers” can get paid for people seeing the ads placed on the page. The unintended consequence of these posts is the manipulation of the free market of ideas. We are all free to establish our own views and make our own decisions, but the well where the majority of Americans are going get the information to support those claims is poisoned with ‘clickbait’ and flat out lies.

No, these articles, if you can call them that, should not be banned. They should not be filtered from our feeds. They should be prominently displayed when we log on as examples of what happens when we hold ourselves to low standards. These posts get widely circulated amongst groups of people who walk around with blinders, wanting to hear no other sides of the story than the one they believe to be true. They are the same people who start arguments in the comments of one of your posts, but never reply when you present your side. They want none of it. They already have it figured out and no other opinions are valid.

We surround ourselves with the people who are most like us. It’s the natural social structure, but it is to our detriment when we shut ourselves off to ideas that challenge our own. Discussions about politics and religion that differ from your own, when done respectfully, only enrich one’s world view. They give us a better understanding of others, advance your personal self, and advance society. The perpetuation of one’s own views by only like-minded people breeds only ignorance. Have you ever seen an aerial view of North Korea at night, compared to its neighboring countries? That is what happens when opposing viewpoints are dismissed, only for the sake of being different.

If you’ve made it this far in the article, then you are clearly not the type of person I’m referring to. You click on an article and read it to the end, a rare feat in today’s world. So what’s the point? The point is; challenge people. Do not sit idly by while someone you know shares a link you know is clearly misinformation. Hold them to a higher standard. Force them to think. Clicking ‘like’ or ‘share’ can be performed by a chimpanzee. Typing a thought out response to someone fires up a different part of the brain, a part that is not on display very often anymore, it seems.