Social media (and intellectual) skills in ever shorter supply

I have to admit it: social media are increasingly giving me the creeps. Or more precisely, the users of social media who can’t, or won’t, tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t.

While it’s true that the mainstream media spread a lot of “fake news”, if and when it serves their ideological biases, we cannot simply abandon them and obtain “news” from nondescript websites instead.

I see it in my Facebook timeline, for example, all the time: stories get shared and circulated that have absolutely no base in reality or fact. Some of those sites may have started as a joke, but have now become the source – and often the sole source – of information for way too many people.

Worst of all: a lot of people share such stories and don’t even realize that they’re spreading spoofs, jokes and/or fake news.

Don’t think that this phenomenon is limited to just one side of the ideological divide. There are left and right-wing fake-news sites. Among the left-wing fare, we see a lot of fake stories about Donald Trump, or his wife or daughter, for example, while right-wingers seem to focus on anti-Islamic topics, such as sharing videos of Muslims rioting in “European cities”.

And both sides are full of crap.

The endless “revelations” about Melania Trump’s past and present are so obviously fake that even a single-cell organism could easily spot the lie. The same is true of the many anti-Muslim sites – not long ago, someone shared a video of Muslims rioting, with the meme’s text claiming that it was recent footage filmed in Germany. It was meant to scare people, but a closer look at the video would have quickly revealed that it consisted of scenes filmed in the Middle East and a bunch of other locations, but not in Germany. In fact, not even one single scene in that video originated in Germany.

That so many people can be duped by such fake news merely, and sadly, proves something that I have been saying for quite some time now: people are becoming dumber and dumber all the time, and a growing number of them have lost all ability to think critically and for themselves.

Maybe this is why they’re turning to such easy targets in their respective echo chambers of thought. If they follow, read and share only fake-news articles from ideologically pure sources, they won’t have to analyze and think.

By contrast, reading a story in a mainstream newspaper, for example, requires heavy-duty parsing in order to separate the chaff from the wheat. A single newspaper article can contain both genuine and fake elements, and it is up to an educated, aware reader to tell the difference.

Unfortunately, too many people nowadays consider this hard work or are downright incapable of such – hitherto, basic and necessary – intellectual and cognitive skills.

O tempora, o mores!

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