Thursday, 4 May 2017

Digital inauthenticity - the rising epidemic

When it comes to making informed decisions you have to be proactive.  I'll briefly discuss some points you can consider when making informed decisions relating to the information via social media or any websites.  This post is inspired through personal observation of social media that I have been seeing a lot of recently.  This is useful for everyday life such as work and study when searching material on the internet.  By no means is this a politically charged narrative nor am I a politics enthusiast, however this also very useful for making educated political voting decisions.

The rise of social-hungry-attention-seekers and 'fake news' has been amplified more than ever through social media.  Everyone is allowed to make an opinion and the freedom to express themselves whichever way they like, as I am doing now.  So you could say at this point you may ask why should you believe this?  But you should as you know it to be true if you look deep enough.  A lot of this can relate back to early literacy skills - English to interpret and analyse others tone of communication; reading, writing, listening and speaking.  Is it expository, persuasive, narrative or descriptive?  Like marketing, some write their articles to a targeted audience and tap into your existing preconceptions.  Which make you want to agree with them, which could then eventually lead onto the inappropriate use of propaganda.  Organisations pay people to follow them or employ people to go on social media to generate interest and sometimes troll for reactions.

I see a lot of posts written by non-professionals claiming '10 things you should do to make a better relationship...' or 'these daily ingredients that are slowly killing you...'.  Even worse, I see a lot of memes written with clumsy information on and people believing and reacting to them as if it's true.  It's subjective and unreliable rubbish and we can be just like vacuums sucking it in.  It's a rising epidemic and it needs to dealt with.  Imagine that all of your life choices were informed by these unauthentic articles.  Scary isn't it!  Ask yourself, who are you responding to, them or yourself?

A lot of this stems from a post I wrote many years ago 'Evolutionary not revolutionary?' where I said; "technology is our greatest invention and I think it will be our greatest killer".  If we do not learn how to adapt to this epidemic positively and effectively, it could result in a huge outbreak of social separation and divide, which has actually been happening for some time.  When people have claimed the end of the world years ago, I've always thought it's nothing to do with a asteroid on a collision course with earth, nor any ancient calendar etc.  I believe it's things like this where humans will just implode on themselves and societies and communities will be so disconnected and divided it will be hard to recover.

Most of us have become somewhat lazy and believing what is laid upon us.  It takes effort and time to search for information and even the truth.  However, we must make effort to learn true facts.  Here is a few points to consider to help inform yourself when searching for authentic material:

  • Read and share the information if you only feel they are credible enough
  • Be aware of trolls. Some people find joy in putting out misinformation and comments to provoke others into anger or to create intentional negative reactions
  • Avoid being drawn into unrealistic and catchy headlines.  It's usually 'click bait' to gain more views to their websites.  If it looks and sounds unreal, it most likely is. Be suspicious but in moderation
  • Investigate the source of the information.  How legitimate and genuine are they?  What is their reputation for accuracy like?  Do they have a background in that subject that allows authenticity?  Are they experts and qualified in this area?  What organisations are they attached to?  Check the language, spelling, punctuation and grammar they use - if it's flakey they cannot be professional
  • Look at the website address/Uniform Resource Locator (URL) closely to see if it matches or belongs to the same company.  A webpage could be an excellent clone of the real webpage but the URL will give away its identity
  • Review the images used.  They might look authentic but if you look closely they could be manipulated or doctored and be taken out of context.  Search for the image to check it's authenticity
  • Check the dates and reporting of the information.  It could be old and reused information or the actual event is out of timeline.  If it's not being reported by other trusted sources then it's unauthentic and unreliable
  • Distinguish if the information is for humour.  Again check if the source is a known parody or comedy establishment/personality, it might just be for fun - like April Fools

Overall, consider if the information is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary or kind.