From Pine View Farm

How Stuff Works, Truth Overwhelmed Dept. 0

David A. Asch and Raina Merchant detail the erosion of truth as a result of the explosion of “social” media; they identify three factors. An excerpt (emphasis added):

First is social media. Social media stands next to the printing press and moveable type among inventions that dramatically lowered the cost of communicating widely — now to the point that anyone can do it. Here, you find little to no fact-checking, and no editorial standards to govern broadcasted information. . . . . Paradoxically, perceived credibility may have increased. Communications through pre-existing social networks are typically more trusted than information from impersonal sources.

Second is selective deafness. When Walter Cronkite was the “Most Trusted Man in America,” many received their news from that single source. Now, Americans can select news feeds from thinly parsed media channels. It’s only human to want to hear what you want to hear. But what is a good strategy for music is not a good strategy for news. The problem is less that those into homeopathy can subscribe to homeopathy-favorable channels — it’s that they can do so to the exclusion of everything else. Selective deafness creates the “echo chamber” people decry.

Third is that lies are chameleons. Truth comes in only one form, but lies can be shaped to match any taste. The suffering want hope, and those unencumbered by the truth have an easier time giving it to them.


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