The Misinformation Era
With media 2.0 comes the era of misinformation. The world has more information producing outlets than ever before, and with that, comes deceit.
Many, and I mean many, individuals are misinformed about the current state of our world nowadays. 50 years ago, this was less likely to happen due to a reduction in the sheer volume of news outlets. There were more newspapers and a lot fewer television stations back then. It resulted in more understanding of the current status of the world and its news, but with less critical analysis and contextualization.
The list of researchers has grown exponentially throughout the past five decades, but conversely, so has the number of “amateur authors,” aka bloggers. Hundreds of years ago, philosopher Socrates stated this to be his biggest fear. A world full of opinionated writers, where anyone could supposedly be a subject matter expert on anything, without proper credentials, and perhaps most importantly, no audience being left because everyone attempts to write, but no one listens.
I, myself, am a blogger. When people ask me what I do, I tell them I work in higher education, but first, I state I write and blog. It’s because I view myself as a writer, even if it’s not my official title yet since I don’t do it full time. While I take a little bit of offense to what Socrates believed, I sort of agree. There are not enough listeners in our world. Everybody wants to become the next prominent blogger, YouTuber, internet personality, or influencer, and the fields are beyond saturated at this point. Yet, where are the people who support those individuals and help them succeed and do what they love for a career? Well, they’re still there, but there’s not as many of them.
In today’s society, people are extremely focused on themselves and their growth more than ever, and I believe this to be a good thing. Sure, there are too many blogs and YouTube channels, and it’s harder to consume great content these days because you have to sift through tens or hundreds of mediocre articles and videos to find a fantastic one, but it’s the way it is. Because when you think about it, your favorite writer or video producer may have never entered the field if they felt it was oversaturated.
Meaning, you would have never been able to enjoy their content, and they couldn’t do what they love for a living. What I believe is most important, and another thing you should think about is that we live in a world where anybody can create something special if they work hard enough. I worked extremely hard to create this website and continue to do so every day to maintain it. It’s not always easy, sometimes I get writers’ block, but I love it, and it’s given me a newfound purpose.
Yet, as we look at media 2.0, we must look at the convergence of mainstream and social media. Media 2.0, as defined, is made up of “newer” media companies, in the grand scheme of things, such as Google and Facebook. These companies have dramatically shifted the way we receive and consume our news and other content. With this monumental change has come plenty of information, and unfortunately not just information, but misinformation.
We are firmly in the misinformation era. Nearly every day, fake articles and videos pop up on Google, Facebook, and almost every social media platform. Individuals go out of their way to push their own narrative. Often, organizations or personal accounts will post and share false information, looking to fulfill an agenda. Even the highest position in the United States, the president, is not exempt from the deception and ramifications of such acts.
Google, and primarily Facebook, have been under scrutiny the past few years because of a lack of censorship when it comes to false articles or videos posted by either platform. Now, you’d think, especially on Facebook, a platform designed to share personal opinions on matters, it would be okay. But considering the world we live in, and how many people go to Facebook as one of their first searches when wanting to gain some clarity on a subject, it was only a matter of time before they got censored just like national and local news stations do.
Even then, national and local television is only partially censored. But with the widespread use of technology and many individuals turning to cell phones as a news source instead of TV, the call for censorship makes sense. Facebook got into trouble because there were so many fake news stories posted on the platform; no one knew what to believe. More specifically, leaders in the United States thought the power of these fake news stories on Facebook, could have very well impacted the presidential race in 2016, and could eventually affect the one this year, in 2020.
These days, what’s particularly interesting is that with as many inventive, brilliant minds as we have, there are so many gullible people. If you’ve been on social media, ever, I am sure you know what I am referring too. I’ve seen people even believe an article from The Onion, a satirical news website that makes up stories, was real. The dangerous part here is that individuals are quick and willing to repost content and discuss it as if it’s true, rather than just taking a few minutes to go to the website and study the source. Everybody knows there’s power in numbers, and if the masses believe something false, it could spell trouble for society as a whole.
Do your research
As important as I think it is for Google and Facebook, among other media companies, to censor their content because they really can change outlooks and alter politics, it is equally, if not more important for the general public, to always view any information they consume with a critical eye. In college, you learn all about research and what is and isn’t a credible source. You’re told never to use Wikipedia because anyone can write anything on there and always advised to use library databases because there is a bevy of content with little to no bias.
Yet, not everyone has the privilege of attending college or having been taught about research and its importance, and I’d argue that it’s as big of a problem in the 21st century as anything else. We must educate our youth; without it, we risk being puppets in a society that already feeds off power and the inability of others. More specifically, we need to make credible and noteworthy sources more readily available to everyday people, not just college students, researchers, or Nobel peace prize winners, but everyone.
Often, research databases cost money to have access to them. It’s almost as if you have to pay to know the genuine facts about something, to see the real truth, and to make your own opinion of it. After all, that’s what news was originally intended to be. A source that combed through and laid out the essential facts of any given situation, and you make of it what you wanted to. It allowed you to form your own opinion, not be controlled by the inherent bias of others.
When it comes to anything you see online, especially on social media, you must take it with a grain of salt and, most importantly, do your research. Research the source of the article or video you just read or watched. Who wrote it or made it? Where do they work? What do they do for a living? Does their bias easily show in their work? Are they trying to spin a particular narrative for their own selfish desires? What’s their credibility? How about their background?
If you want to eradicate misinformation and create a more well-balanced landscape of truthful media, you must ask yourself these questions. Please encourage your friends, far and wide, to conduct proper research on any topic, because although it does cost money to access many databases, there are free ones out there, and believe it or not, there are still writers who try to limit their bias.
Not only that, but implore the people in your circle to view websites and news stations with outlooks and coverage in which they agree and disagree. It’s how we gain a better understanding of any subject matter as a whole. Not by sticking to one source and believing they are the end all be all. So the next time you go to Google, Facebook, any social media platform, or your local and national news channel and newspaper, please do your research. By doing so, you set a precedent for others to do the same. We must be the change we wish to see.