We call Facebook social media, but it’s often anti-social media.
It offers us a chance to keep up with people–often old friends we haven’t seen since childhood or college–and to hear about new ideas, general news, books, blog links of interest, and a lot of other things that according to communications theories are supposed to bring various cultural groups and nationalities closer together through enhanced knowledge and understanding of each other.
I’m not surprised when people use Facebook and Twitter to disseminate facts, ideas and opinions about causes such as the environment, the treatment of women in Muslim countries, military vs. diplomatic methods of resolving conflicts, and the current Presidential race.
In this country, we’re supposed to be champions of free speech. Among other things, that means defending the right of those who express opposing views to express those views. But somehow, that’s all gotten so polarized that people ignore the facts–or don’t spend time looking for them.
Perhaps nothing, depending on how old you are and what you’ve experienced growing up through many decades of changing priorities and value systems. My feeling is that people aren’t doing their homework. So, when they feel moved to say something on Facebook, they often opt for a graphic or a video prepared by a biased source. Many of the things quoted during the Presidential race either were never said by the candidate or were taken out of context so they appear to mean something quite different than the candidate intended. Yet this stuff is posted as the gospel truth.
As a former journalist and journalism instructor, I not only think many news outlets have gotten warped, but that they are using their agendas to create public opinions that would be much different if those courses were making every effort to be objective. This skewed, highly managed sound bite “journalism” makes its way onto Facebook in all kinds of ways. Truth is the first casualty here. Oddly enough, if you point out to the person who posts a political graphic that the graphic is incorrect, their solution is to believe it anyway. It’s simply easier!
While I almost never post political statements on my Facebook profile, I often “see red” when I see a graphic or a poster’s opinion that twists a real event into something it wasn’t. Even if I say that I heard the speech the person is quoting and that they’re not reporting what s/he said, they don’t care. What they’re posting coincides with their opinions and the facts don’t matter.
Sometimes people ask me what my sources are. When I answer, some people say, “Oh, well I only listen to news sources I agree with.” Ultimate stupidity. You’re not supposed to agree with a source because that source is supposed to be neutral. If they’re not neutral, they’re not a real journalist. I despair when I see the Fox news aficionados and the CNN aficionados screaming at each other about objectivity when both of those news outlets are very biased. Yes, I know, it’s just easier to be led around by a figurative leash by sources who tell you what to think, but that approach hurts all of us.
I know I shouldn’t comment on those kinds of posts, but it’s hard to resist. The result: a lot of time is wasted and nobody’s opinion is changed. What a waste of time.
Malcolm R. Campbell’s new novel “Eulalie and Washerwoman” will be released Friday, October 14th.