The new world in which we live is a trip, isn’t it? Everything moving so fast. Information disseminated instantly. And, as we all have come to experience, it is often passed along through social media without confirmation or fact checking. We all knew that was the deal – hence the sarcastic adage “I read it on the internet, so it must be true!” But I think we’ve gotten into more dangerous waters with the spread of falsehoods for this reason: traditional news media is now REPORTING based on social media.
We used to be able to separate the tried and true newspaper journalist, TV correspondent, and professional newspersons form the masses of internet Walter Cronkite wannabes. But now the lines are getting more and more blurred. I’m a TV guy; I watch all the morning news channels (I’m a surfer). FOX, MSNBC, CNN, local news, GMA, Today…they all drive me crazy, but it gives me something to do while I have my morning coffee. Much of the time on these shows is now spent READING TWEETS AND FACEBOOK POSTS. In addition, they tend to be trending a couple/three days behind social media, reporting things that I read on my FB newsfeed days earlier. So here is the problem; recently your Facebook newsfeed and mine has been bombarded by posts of people desperately clinging to their intellectual property amidst the threat of Facebook planning to charge money to keep our information private. Many people fell for it because they saw/read “legitimate” news channels were reporting that it was true. But where were they getting there information from? SOCIAL MEDIA!!! Or maybe not… maybe it was just posted on social media that one of the news outlets confirmed the hoax. The point is that with news stations reporting from social, it gets real muddy to discern what’s for real. This is just one example – many times quotes are wrongly attributed to people and spread around, or reports of one’s death are greatly exaggerated.
The Good: we get real information faster than ever in the history of the world.
The Bad: we must continually sift through garbage and lies to uncover what is true and newsworthy.
The Ugly: it doesn’t seem likely to stop anytime soon.
What can we do? We as citizens can exercise great caution before posting/retweeting information. Take some time and fact check. You’re not going to win a Pulitzer Prize anyway, so take it slow.
The professional news media also can help. Stop relying on lazy journalism by just reporting what Twitter and Facebook are saying. Crack open a book or make a few phone calls. Go old school once in awhile.