During the last few months I have been noticing that a lot of people are complaining about others liking articles, videos, artists and statuses throughout social media without fact checking. In some cases it is clear people aren’t reading posts because the comments don’t line up with the subject or have nothing to do with the posted link!People are liking stuff just cause and are not clicking to review the posted content, so much so that memes exist to address this issue. I can understand that a like is a vote of confidence more than an actual statement these days, a proof that “I’m reading you buddy” but it amazes me that it has gotten this far, to the point where people share links without validating them. Are we so confident about our knowledge of the world that we feel we don’t need to educate ourselves anymore before producing and offering an opinion? We believe we are entitled to post and write whatever we feel or think without any forethought on the matter. This worries me and has become a pet peeve of mine.
Before assuming people are just lazy and careless, I am inclined to theorize that maybe we are so used to trusting our friends and peers that we often decide that if they posted it, it must be good, true or relevant. We like it to let them know we care, that we are keeping up with them, and we comment to appear to be in solidarity with whatever they may be posting about. The catch is that the click bait is so clever that the headlines barely match the content of the article. When I actually read the links and opinions posted before providing feedback to my friends, I notice that sarcasm, satire or just plain one sided views permeate the discussion; misinformation is rampant. We are failing to differentiate the fluff from the substance and no one is taking the time to validate if the information is accurate. I have to Snope articles every few days, especially if they go viral. When an article from The Onion is misconstrued, I have to explain to people that this is not a legit news outlet. It is so exhausting!
If we only like things and don’t read the articles or, we read and we don’t comment or discuss, we are perpetuating the problem. The idea behind social media was to challenge each other, to speak up and find our own voice. Although some people turned it into a competition or a “look at me” spectacle, the intention of the internet was to make the world smaller, more connected and in tune with reality. Now we can see things real time, we can feel the pain others feel due to war in their countries, or we can share in the joy of a festival or scientific discovery without having to wait for the news or the printed press. This can be viewed as both a positive and a negative thing but regardless of your opinion this connectivity raises our awareness of local and global events. You’d assume that this rapid feedback network should move us to become agents of change, to build avenues to reach those in need but it doesn’t. This leads me to my second concern: Why aren’t we though?
Sitting at home in my climate controlled environment, watching on demand TV and waiting for my family to call and text, I see why we haven’t been moved or challenged. We don’t trust our leadership. We don’t trust the information that is being presented to us. We don’t believe that there are objectives outlets left for us to use to form our own conclusions and opinions. On top of that, we want to remain anonymous in a place where everyone knows how to track our moves and our dislikes; a world run by algorithms that predict what you will do next or what you will most likely buy based on your browser searches. We feel threatened by the lack of privacy. The pressure to put our emotions and thoughts out there and the feeling of being constantly judged make us a bit more reserved and soft spoken to the point we just like it and hope that the gesture is worth the pain; that we are not going to get dragged into circular logic arguments or bunny trails. The internet took over our lives and without realizing it we had to constantly sensor our comments for fear of being un-PC or too real for others to handle. Society expects us to play by their rules, to meet their expectations, and to follow a particular plan. The anonymous masses voice their demands openly and if we don’t fit into their mold we are excluded and banished, punished on and offline because we dared to stand out or be different. No wonder we “facebook stalk” other or read without linking or commenting and move on!
I know it is tough to read through someone’s drama or to care about issues that don’t appeal to us but we can’t knock what we don’t know without educating ourselves about the topic, much less like it and pretend no one will ask you about it in the future. The least I can ask of you is that next time you see or read something that you actually like, that you are brave enough to comment or communicate with your friend, at least privately, about the article or post. Not only will your friends appreciate it, but it may lead to very interesting conversations and even plans for future discussions. Yay!
Taking time out of our busy schedules is never easy but since I have started to do this with my friends and peers I have had very enlightening and heart warming results. I have actually grown as a person and have been able to take my friends seriously when they share those things that are important to them on their news feed. The intention of social media was to share our experiences and our thoughts, embracing our friends’ perspectives while learning to interpret their writing and commenting styles. After all, the only way to get to know someone is by learning to understand them, and if I know one thing is that we all want to be loved and understood. There are real people at the other side of the screen too. Show them they are being read!
Avoid becoming the person that gets unfollowed because you are posting nonvaluable information. Check before you repost or endorse with a like. Credibility is easy to lose and harder to rebuild.