For a couple of years now a hot topic has been “FAKE NEWS”. A particular part of the fake news stories has struck me as very odd. The stories that are reported saying that social media sites are finding posts and users that are involved in spreading fake stories. The reason I find this odd is that I thought it was common knowledge that you can not believe everything on the internet. I don’t know if it is because of the type of media I consume, or the people I surround myself with, but I can not count how many times I have heard sarcastic jokes over the years about everything on the internet being true.
I am 40 years old now, so I do not consider myself young by any means. The problem, however, is that reading articles with the headline story being “SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANY IDENTIFIES FAKE POSTS” is odd to me. I don’t know if I am supposed to be shocked that the disinformation is supposed to be from a foreign country, or if I am supposed to just be shocked that it is there at all. Either way, it feels like some out of touch person from an ancient generation has suddenly discovered that people can and will post lies on the interwebs.
Like a lot of users, I am fully aware that many people on my own friend list share disinformation on a regular basis with misleading pictures or posts. I thought we all understood that is what social media platforms had unfortunately become. That, and a bunch of people sharing things that make others jealous, either inadvertently or intentionally. Some social media platforms are used to blurt out false information in an angry way to get a rise out of people.
I think some of the fake news I have seen is actually just fake news headlines. Many people, myself included, have been guilty of seeing a flashing headline and telling someone about breaking news we see in a post. When asked about any details of the article, the only response is we did not read the article and simply saw the headline. The other option, in an effort to not look dumb, is to stumble through what we think the article was about. What I find in some of those stories is that while the headline may technically be true, the article is not exactly what was advertised. I think of this like a National Enquirer effect. When you are at the checkout line you see all types of flashy news, but most of it is not what it seems if you read the articles.
All that being said, I am not sure if it is laziness, or the fact that many people feel the need to always know what is going on that causes us to skim through news we see. There is an urge to be part of every conversation and always know what is going on. In the five minutes it may take us to read an article, we may miss out on some breaking #trend. There is a world of knowledge at our fingertips, but how often do we actually tap that knowledge? When we share the articles, posts or tweets without doing any research, how can we blame any organization for tailoring their business to our habits? News organizations and social media platforms exist to make money. If they see a pattern in the way we access content, and they can find a way to increase revenue by preying on it, they will. If they find that users start to research things before sharing them, perhaps they may do a little more research as well.
Bottom line in my mind is that no foreign power, business or organization should be able to have a huge influence on how we live our lives by spreading fake news and articles. We have a personal responsibility for doing our research in order to make informed decisions. It is the consumer’s job to make sure that the media they share with others is factually correct. A society that is too trusting and never questioning information is one that is easily taken advantage of.