Anyone with a massive platform, potentially reaching millions of people, should by definition have a duty of care towards objectivity. We all know, because it is apparent on a daily basis, that everyone is entitled to an opinion. That’s why programmes like BBC’s ‘Question Time’ have existed for many years, to allow people an opportunity to say what they feel in a manner that is not available anywhere else.
Except, as institutions such as the BBC and major newspapers have remained staunchly intractable basions of a particular approach to news and current affairs, the world around them has altered, often beyond recognition. Offering opinion is now open season for anybody with some brain cells and the ability to manipulate Social media. Facts, more and more, appear to be in short supply.
Reality, of course, sits somewhere between both schools.
If you understand the concept of cognitive ease, then you’ll also grasp why stuff like the Question Time video is potentially very dangerous indeed. I’m seeing shares on the back not of what the woman is saying but on how the guy next to her reacts: yes, that’s a good thing, but the point of the woman’s message isn’t silenced or removed. If you did, it would obviously make no sense as to why the reaction exists.
Fake news works on the concept that if you hear something enough times (the body temperature of a chicken is 41 degrees) then actual validity becomes irrelevant. If that message is broadcast by a television station you trust? Yeah, you’ll end up assuming this is reality. It’s the reason why if you’re not following at least five different news outlets on Social media, you really are laying yourself open to be manipulated.
At some point, like it or not, you will have to start thinking about what you consume.
Just as it is vital to grasp what goes into your body via nutrition, what you read and watch will (like it or not) have the equivalent affect on your brain. If you cannot trust that once-impartial sources (such as TV, newspapers and media personalities) will remain that way, it becomes up to work out when manipulation could take place. In some cases, fortunately for us, that becomes quite easy to grasp.
However, those lines blur when institutions like the BBC pick an obviously sensationalist moment of their own output, with multiple layers of narrative and visual complexity, with which to effectively advertise their own content. Remember kids, that’s one of the major reasons these platforms exist, as advertising mediums. The BBC’s a business, which the UK public partially fund. We can ignore these moments and then, unsurprisingly, they will vanish.
Except of course you’ll have forgotten about this by next week… or will you?
Carrying more information is not the answer to your issues with modern life, despite what some people might suggest to the contrary. What will matter most, going forward, is an ability to know what should be saved and what can be put away, whilst most importantly what you really don’t need in your brain at all. I don’t need xenophobia, hatred, anger or bitterness. None of those things serve any purpose to me.
Worrying obsessively is a character fault that is proving harder to remove, but understanding what I can and can’t influence is a decent start. If I choose NOT to retweet the Question Time video, I am not retweeting hate. I’m not using somebody else’s panic and fear as an example. I am most certainly not contributing to a pile on which wouldn’t be necessary if the broadcaster had chosen just to leave that clip alone.
They picked it for a very particular reason, and everybody fell for it.
Telling other people they’re idiots will undoubtedly place you on a hiding to nothing, but every time something like this surfaces, the same people will make the point. The same organisations are to blame, time and again. It doesn’t make everybody who works for them either bad or wrong, but it does cast a pretty poor light on those who are clearly not capable of moving with the times.
It’s quite easy to know when you’re being manipulated on Social media: learn the signs, look for the patterns, and remember the most important rule of all: never react to anything before you’re awake. These platforms rely on instantaneous, knee-jerk indignation to remain functional. You are much better than that. There are more helpful things to be doing with your time than fuelling someone else’s advertising strategy.
Go look at some GIFs of fluffy animals instead.