By Jessica E. Lane
I once read, from an undoubtedly unreliable source, that 70% of all statistics are made up on the spot. In this digital age– where we are but mere taps away from the answers to all of our questions– why is it that so many “alternative facts” are widespread and held firm? With the emergence of social media, lies spread faster than legs on prime time television, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate fact from opinion. The manifest destiny movement behind the idea, “if you speak it, so shall it be,” is a million dollar industry, but are we taking it too far? Are these coveted alt-facts true and whole, or are they shells waiting to buckle under the weight of our cognitive dissonance?
At any given moment, the average American holds an infinite amount of information at our fingertips– literally. This makes fact checking easy, or so one would think. However, I am becoming more convinced that many of us aren’t even interested in the factual information that our resources have to offer. My conjecture is that group-think engagement is far easier than confirming facts and thinking for oneself. It’s human nature to want to be accepted by those around us, so it’s understandable to feel that we must align our beliefs with our peers to maintain friendships. The problem is, once one of us sinks under the weight of a fallacy, the whole lot of us ends up drowning in our own willful ignorance.
It helps none that we are currently led by a host of fact-creators– that is, individuals who are so powerful and influential that once they declare a piece of information to be a fact, so it becomes; whether it is true or not. Over the past year, we have been introduced to so many lies, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories, the people have become distrustful of our own officials. Hate mongering and fear baiting have become the currency of loyalty. This leads many of us to question every decision that is being made about our nation, if it still belongs to us at all.
Our media has become the primary source of information for the general public, many exclusively believing news from one particular network. It is troubling when the channels through which we receive said information has been painted into Patsy for the lies told by individuals. The “fake news” phenomena sped off the railing and created an avenue for the fantastical thinker to explore his wildest scenarios. More and more, this “fake news” interests us more than reality. In fact, earlier this year, 1)popular social media outlet Buzzfeed put fake news featured on Facebook under the microscope and found that people interacted more with fake news postings than those supported by factual information. Subsequently, the media is painted into the enemy of the people. This becomes even more problematic when attacks of terror are happening internationally, and because the public does not trust the media, many declare that it simply did not occur. Whether it is being called a distraction from other events, or just a display to inspire fear and xenophobia, a constant of the narrative is that it, in itself, is a lie.
Facebook is also a medium for widespread deception. Though there have been systems set in place as of late to reduce the “fake news” swirling around, many users of Facebook don’t understand that “What’s on your mind?“ does not equate to “Facts you can find.“ This conglomerate is not restricted to officials or celebrities, but everyone. The posts we share, the comments we make are all a part of the bigger picture, for when we repeat a lie, we reinforce it. At some point, it becomes a fact to us, and we end up sharing freely pieces of information that possibly hurts others. This becomes especially awkward when we stand firm in our beliefs. When we believe something to be true, arrogance and complacency can creep into psyche and allow us to perceive ourselves as more intelligent with this information. Unfortunately, the only people we are deceiving our ourselves.
Reality TV stars have risen to our highest held offices. Puppets continue to Pinocchio their way to power. Prepubescent children are making millions off of their own misbehavior. We even saw a teenager successfully operate an entire medical practice using credentials he may have earned from the Doc McStuffins Health Institute. This age is one in which seemingly anyone can become anything, so its no wonder that faux facts run so rampant. There are people getting filthy rich every day by maintaining entire organizations that thrive on deceit to fill their pockets. Even the foods most readily available to us were grown in a lab and never meant for human consumption. Corporate industries casually purchase foods from other countries that are molecularly akin to drywall, and sell you whole, organic lies at a 300% markup.
As long as humans have free will, lies will continue. We make purchases based on the opinion of others, by reading reviews first. We tell stories that make ourselves look better, and we make judgments that make ourselves feel better. We make assumptions based on color alone. Entire identities are built on legs of hate and lies, created to allow groups of people to feel better than others. We make judgments about people based on who they love. We deny opportunities for unique and stimulating connections because of a perception, fed to us by the entities who are simultaneously dividing us. At the end of the day though, we are still humans. Of course we are capable of wrongdoing, but we are also capable of an astonishing abundance of goodwill.
My challenge to all who read this is to form opinions and perceptions based on your own experiences. If you dislike someone, dislike them because they have trespassed against you. If you distrust a product, do it because you have researched that product thoroughly. If you spread information, do it because you have confirmed that information from a credible source. Or not. Let’s just stop separating ourselves for the untruth to stand between. This will only impair the very foundation of any nation– the people– which will further create open windows for those who wish us malice. Let us not divide because of class, identity, color, or political party, because though I’m not well versed in the world of politics, I’ve been to crazy party or two, and I know that when a jackass addresses the elephant in the room, the grass suffers most of all.
- Picture: https://PsychologyToday.com
- Silverman, C. “Fake election news stories on Facebook” https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/viral-fake-election-news-outperformed-real-news-on-facebook?utm_term=.ragZGmKK3#.xbO3JlQQa. November 16, 2016. Web. Accessed 05/24/2017
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|1.||↑||popular social media outlet Buzzfeed put fake news featured on Facebook under the microscope and found that people interacted more with fake news postings than those supported by factual information|