I’ve been on Facebook for a little over a month now. The biggest thing I’ve noticed since I started using social media sites is just how much misinformation there is out there. Posts specifically meant to spread fear, hatred, lies, or biased “facts” that are so incredibly easy to check and yet so seldom corrected spread like wildfire and cause severe panic that is completely unnecessary. With the internet, we have the ability to look up virtually ANYTHING we can think of, check it, and then spread information quickly and efficiently to hundreds of thousands of people in an incredibly short amount of time. We should no longer live in a world where we distrust our news sources, because we actually have the ability to double-check those sources ourselves. It is amazing and facile, and yet increasingly uncommon. So, to those people out there who use this amazing resource in order to willfully spread lies and misinformation, I say this: How dare you? How dare you diminish the greatness that is humanity by letting such filth leak from between your grinning teeth just so you may spread whatever agenda you feel is more important than truth? If the things you love so much must be supported through misinformation, then it seems you’re supporting something that can’t stand on its own merits and maybe you should reevaluate your allegiances. But mostly, how dare you poison an already inky well with more deluded scum? You sicken me.
I suppose I should say that many of the people who spread these lies are not doing it out of a purposeful malevolence. Many are completely unaware that they are spreading misinformation and truly believe that what they post is accurate. Should they be despised for their ignorance?
Short answer: Yes. We no longer live in a world where ignorance is an excuse. If you have the time to post something to hundreds of friends via facebook, you sure as hell have enough time to type in snopes or google and make sure you’re not spreading something completely falsified. For every lying post you put out there, someone is going to believe it as fact, and that means YOU have helped to weaken a country that is already balancing precariously on a precipice of uneducated drivel.
Something like this actually happened to me several weeks ago. I was friends with a guy on facebook who often posted incredulous and ridiculous political claims. What really bothered me about his posts was that the sources were often satirical sites, yet he always discussed the articles as though they were factual. So, I corrected him on them. His response? “Stop it. I don’t need you telling me where my news comes from. If I want to verify things I will.”
I apologized as politely as possible and quietly stopped following him, but inside I was raging. Will you? WILL YOU? Because it seems to me that if you were going to verify this ignorant swill, you would have done it by now. And I’m not correcting these things for you. It’s obvious to me that you’re probably beyond help at this point, you ignorant, self-righteous charlatan. No, I’m correcting you so that I might MIGHT be able to save one of your poor, unknowing, sheep-like followers from the dark pit of ignorance you are so willingly shepherding them towards.
If a mother poisons her child, even by accident, we do not shrug and say “well, the child should have known better.” We do not turn away and say “it is her family; she can do as she wishes.” No. How could we ever condone the poisoning of an infant? That child trusted her to provide something of substance and worth, and she failed. If we were aware of such an act we’d label that woman an abomination, and our entire nation would weep in sorrow or scream in fury at her deed.
How do we not look to our news in the same light? We trust our news sources to provide worthy, substantial information about this huge, wonderful, complicated, and sometimes dark world we live in, and we should be just as horrified when we are fed poisonous lies and twisted stories. But we aren’t. Instead we nod our heads and shake our fists at Ebola scares and shout down the experts who repeat over and over “it IS NOT airborne. It IS under control” (and no one seems to notice when those scare tactics suddenly stop and we’re quickly herded to some other apocalyptic terror). We focus on celebrity news and remain ignorant of foreign wars. To this day I want to know why I know who Snooki is when I’ve never seen a television show that had her in it. Why can I recognize her on sight but I can’t fully explain our history of involvement in Afghanistan?
The internet is a wonderful tool. I am not disputing that. But our minds are just as amazing. If we start using only one and not the other, our greatness begins to shrivel, and we are left with only the dregs of information that come easily and spark emotions readily. Validity of news is no longer a priority. Therefore, how can we consider ourselves intelligent or informed about anything at all? Have we all become that willfully ignorant?