There's been a startling trend on social media as of recent. The dissemination of misinformation and the promotion of skewed, outdated, and simply irrelevant information has kicked into high gear. 2015 has been full of socially and politically charged situations; and social media has been at the forefront of pumping out information at an unprecedented rate.
Social media has been critical for movements such as the Arab Spring, but it's equally dangerous as it is advantageous.
The internet can be a museum of social media blunders, leading to gems such as our friend Eric's celebrity slip up:
We laugh, we share it, our friends laugh, they share it, a hearty good time all around. But our entertainment has been replaced with a rampant sense of dread and false judgement when posts like these show up on our newsfeeds:
The above image is a photoshopped picture of Veerender Jubal, critic of GamerGate, who had a picture of him photoshopped to have the supposed Qur'an, dildo (really?), and suicide bomb vest in the image. It made him out to be an Islamic State member who participated in the Paris Attacks last month. It was actually a picture of him taking a selfie with a regular iPad, without the suicide bomb vest, Qur'an, and dildo (really, again?). Thankfully, this picture drew skepticism from social media users, who were able to debunk this myth.
However, the fact that this image had already made rounds on the internet, and people fell for this sensationalized mess, tells an alarming tale about the presence of misinformation on social media; and its ability to fuel ignorance. Too many times, people have fallen for horribly captioned pictures on Facebook, and before even stopping to consider the validity of said image, have already clicked the "Share" button. This epidemic capitalizes a developmental issue when it comes to this socially charged environment. Those who are anxious and fearful in crisis situations are easy targets to be swayed by bigoted posts, many of which are obviously doctored to skew people's perception of what is actually happening. Take this image that equates victims of the refugee crisis to M&Ms and considers them possible terrorists
This image, or similar analogies, have spread like wildfire across virtually all social media platforms, gathering thousands of retweets, favorites, and shares.
Why is it that our fanatical obsession with shock value has made us refuse to even do the slightest bit of research? How has exorbitant amounts of incorrect material become so popular?
1. The Mediums We Use to Share Our Stories Have Evolved.
The number of platforms to share information has increased exponentially. We are able to pick from a pool of websites such as Medium, Mashable, and Vice, to generate and share content.
2. Fear + Ignorance + Internet = Content Frenzy.
It's incredible how much ignorance can be spewed just by capitalizing on fear. The aforementioned image on refugees and M&Ms is a clear example of xenophobia working overtime, using fear mongering to reduce populations to mere clickbait.
3. Competitive Internet Arena Leads to The Spread of Inauthentic Media.
Simply telling consumers to purchase something no longer works. Businesses, organizations, companies, and the like are using the ubiquitous power of social media to sway the interests of consumers. This competitive market becomes a race, and often times, those who make it to the finish line of having their article shared the most does so with poor quality.
THIS NOT TO PUT DOWN SOCIAL MEDIA!
Social media is a powerful tool, and we must give credit where credit is due. The amount of information stored on massive sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, has made it a cookie jar of content. Movements have been, are being, and will be formed, from social media, but the excessive sharing of poor quality content has lead to the promotion of fear, the reduction of value and the poor competency of shared data.
This is especially true when sites and posts use attention grabbing headlines to generate traffic, otherwise known as "Clickbait." There is no explicit distinction between old content and new content, leading to this hysteria.
So, what can we do?
Well, if you don't know, you have a friend and didn't even know it yet. Her name is...
See. Our girl Google is the most powerful person on the internet. She is an omniscient being whose knowledge only continues to grow every second. Her ability to find anything and everything should be heralded as godlike.
And be used to stop misinformation.
The many times I've found a particularly suspicious post on social media that was debunked by Google is incalculable at this point. She has been fighting a long battle against ignorance, but she will not be stopped. if you don't know, this is how our girl Google can help YOU.
1. Distinguishing Incorrect Information.
Google doesn't play games. She doesn't break down her links into clickbait just to appease you, nor does she incorporate images that will sway your perception. She gives you facts, backed with data, statistics, graphs, images... She is the reference librarian you need, without having to register for a paid service.
2. She Will Help You in Arguments.
Have you found yourself in the middle of a 50 comment argument with someone over White Privilege? Google is such an amazing and supportive person. With those aforementioned statistics, data, and facts, she will lend you a helping hand in exercising your moral responsibility to call people out. Just hit ctrl+c on the link, then hit ctrl+v, and she will lay your facts out like freshly scented bed sheets.
3. Google is a Beacon of Inspiration.
Surrounded by nothing but links about why Planned Parenthood is a crime of the century? Google knows your frustration as you smash all your keys to respond to each and every single person with an APA-cited essay followed with clear shade in the conclusion. However, instead of engaging every one, which becomes incredibly exhausting, take the road less traveled and share a factually-based article which sheds light on some of the situation.
You can fulfill all three steps just by asking her. Google is right there, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. She will never let you down, or make you feel like you're inconveniencing her with your wish to dismantle ignorance. If you can share a picture about why Obama is the supposed test tube baby of Karl Marx and ISIS (really?), then you can ask Google. She won't judge you.
Google has a cousin, and his name is...
He's more straight to the point.