Media is defined as a means of mass communication. If we use social media, by the inherited definition of media, we are journalists. We just don’t get paid for it. And if that is the case, we have to be held personally accountable for what we post. So if we are to be held accountable for what we post, we have to check for factual errors, shouldn’t we? Now I am not referring to libel or any murky waters of the legal world. It’s more of a self-regulation. Thinking before we post.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “I’ll post this article/meme/rant because I agree with the conclusion” without seeing all the flawed thinking behind it. For example, I have this blog post that appeared on my Facebook feed written by a woman named Marcella Piper-Terry, founder of VaxTruth.org, all about her declaration of independence from government tyranny after California enacted a law requiring specific vaccinations for children (with medical exemptions) enrolling in public school. My main point is not to argue with Ms. Piper-Terry’s anti-vaccination stance. It’s the way she makes her argument. If you read her post, she admits that she is a poor student of American history, and then she goes on to Google bits of it to co-opt major figures of our past in inaccurate and inflammatory ways to support her point of view about how our civil liberties are being crushed. Instead of putting out a cohesive, thoughtful argument, she is playing on our emotions and using the same tactics that the politicians that she criticizes use to manipulate the public. And you know what that is called? Propaganda. It’s hypocrisy writ large.
Or, let’s get to my bugbear…crappy, ill-conceived memes.
I hardly had to scroll to find this one when I Googled “Obama meme”. Regardless of how you feel about President Obama, in what way is any of this true, and is this any way to write about our president? Like he has this much power over the United States’s economy. Right. Where’s the proof of this monetary catastrophe to this ill-mannered child? There is no satire or important points made either. So, how does this meme add to the national dialogue in any way? Of course, we all know that it doesn’t. So the amateur journalists are really falling down on the job on this one, big time. If I were their editor, their tuchuses would have been pinkslipped ages ago. And maybe even the rest of their bodies.
Now I am an advocate of 1st Amendment, but can’t we make more of an effort to not propagate the waste, so we can get to what is worth reading a little more easily? Is that too much to ask? No one is expecting hours of research behind every little thing that comes across everyone’s screen. However, all of us who read these things have the responsibility to stop posts and other useless bits like these in their tracks instead of passing them on. Is it so hard to stop and question the validity of what we are seeing? I know I have hit the forward and share buttons and then exclaimed, “Aw shit, it was a hoax.” But that is when I go back and correct my mistakes when I do get the facts. Now I am a lot more careful with what I do share.
Casting a critical eye on the information you take in, even in the face of what you believe is right, is an essential skill to have in a world where the reality is in shades of gray. It’s not the easiest way to live, but it makes you more adaptable to the flux that modern life brings.
Maybe we have to start a “Think Before You Click” campaign?