It is way too easy to spread misinformation, and be a mindless parrot.
On social media, it takes no time to post a meme. You can share an image with a pithy saying, and watch it spread like cancer, other people mindlessly sending it to their friends, and so on. And it is cancer, because most people don’t verify the details. In just the time it’s taken you to read this post, 18,000 memes with false information have been posted to Facebook, and over 22% of those will go viral.
I completely made up that statistic. But that’s how easy it is to spread lies. Especially when you make them sound believable.
We’re spreading misinformation because it isn’t convenient to validate every little thing we see. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, sometimes we don’t want to verify the claims because that might risk the truths we blindly want to cling to.
I’m not singling out any particular subject. Vaxers, anti-vaxers, left-wing, right-wing, pro choice, pro life, pro gun, anti-gun… all of us have been pulled into endless conflict, with no hope of resolution.
It’s difficult to keep an open mind in this kind of environment. When a picture is worth a thousand words, and most of those words are spent loudly and offensively making a passive aggressive point, it is difficult to maintain objectivity. I do my best, but I still get drawn in.
It gets worse. It’s not just social media. Fox News and MSNBC spend a great deal of time broadcasting political spin. In my opinion, Fox News is the greater offender of those two, but I’m including MSNBC because unlike Fox News, I actually try to be fair and balanced.
Those are the easy targets. CNN, NBC, and other news outlets spend a great deal of time rebroadcasting social media. So the misinformation and toxic bitterness that is spread via Twitter and Facebook is making its way into the general news stream, like sewage dumped upstream in the river.
It’s so frustrating. I have friends, acquaintances, and even family members that perpetuate the ignorance and misinformation. One of my sisters unfriended me, and really doesn’t like me anymore. I called her out on some truly racist and vile stuff she was posting. Stuff that she’d picked up from Fox News.
How do you fight it? Every time I see a meme posted to my feed of questionable merit, I feel like all of society has turned into lemmings, racing blindly towards a cliff.
Of course, there is no evidence that lemmings actually do that. When Disney was shooting a documentary called White Wilderness, their production crew ran a pack of the little mammals off a cliff. It made for good TV, and the myth about those rodents committing suicide has persisted ever since.
See what I did there?
If there is a call to action at the end of this message, it is this: be mindful of what information you spread.
Keep an open mind. For example, President Obama probably isn’t the worst president we’ve ever had. He may not be the best president we’ve ever had, either. Look at his actual record, bearing in mind his humanity, before you post your pro or anti propaganda picture. Be as critical and as objective as you can, before you take someone else’s word.
And finally: No one has ever changed their mind after looking at a clever meme.
Tomorrow, I’ll probably write about guns. Won’t that be fun!