Social Media is Rarely a Healthy Alternative to Fake News

I am often amazed by what people who decry fake news post on their social media feed. Often they complain about fake news with one breath and post more of it to their pages with the next. I get it; there is a lot of fake news out there. Mainstream media is not the bastion of journalistic integrity it claims to be. The problem is that social media feeds tend to be much worse, and we feed upon them daily without complaint.

I am a Christian, and I am conservative, but just like my liberal friend’s posts, half of what my conservative friends post is also untrustworthy. It is a shame that we have to filter through half-truths and slander even from those who share our views. These misleading posts come in multiple forms.

First and foremost are the memes. There are some great memes out there that are worthy to be shared, but it seems a high percentage of them are not. It is easy to let misleading memes slide because they are more about comedy and satire than truth, right? The problem is that many people are unable to spot the non-sequitur or the equivocation that exist in many of these posts and believe it is a good argument. It seems most people who post such things tend to miss the fallacy too. Rarely does the person posting the logically fallacious meme do so simply to be funny; most actually think it makes a good point. Know this, if you post a logically fallacious meme, the people who recognize it automatically assume you were not bright enough to catch it. There are many errors in reasoning that exist in memes, but irrelevant association is a repeat offender.

The second thing that takes place is that my conservative friends often repost the most ludacris posts they can find from liberals; I am talking about retweeting the asinine. From videos of antifa beating someone on the street to unadulterated racism, these posts sprinkle throughout our feeds. From there, they conclude that all liberals are just like them. They paint everyone who disagrees with them with an extreme brush.

The final problem I will mention has to do with social media algorithms. If we hit like on a post similar to those mentioned above, Facebook and other platforms will then put more of the same in front of you. They have one primary goal, to get you to spend more time on their platform. That is how they make money off you. To do this, they will show you what you like to see, not necessarily what you need to see. If you clicked like on one conspiracy theory, from there, your feed will be filled with similar conspiracy theories. It can get to the point where you see so much of it, it will start to feel like the entire world agrees. This bandwagon mentality can then push us further and further into our delusion.

This constant reinforcement to our imagination is how we get to the point that we think the other side is clinically insane, because how can they believe what they believe after seeing everything we are seeing. The problem is, they are not seeing what we are seeing. Liberals are likely witnessing the exact opposite in their feeds and think we are clinically insane. All of this has contributed to the polarization of our society.

The bottom line is this: we tend to lose our ability to complain about fake news if we willingly feed on a diet social media posts that are more misleading than the mainstream media. Please do not get me wrong. There are real issues at stake in our culture, from sexual perversion and abortion to racism and riots. In dealing with the ramifications of these issues, we will often need to use strong words, but vitriol and bitterness do not fit Christians. Scripture tells us, “The servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil (2 Timothy 2:24).” This applies on social media as well. We are to be bearers of the truth, but why would anyone listen to us when we speak the word of God if we are willing to cast the truth aside as long as it helps make our opponents look bad.

-D. Eaton

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