I often see social media posts from friends that say we could solve many of the world’s problems if we just did away with the media. Whoa there!
First, let’s define media — the main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing and the internet). If you are an active contributor to social media, take a look in the mirror before bashing the “media.” A citizen sending a message to the masses on social media is just as much involved in the “media” as a reporter for this newspaper.
I am a professed news junkie possibly because for over 20 years of my career I created content as a community and then a corporate journalist. This experience only prepared me for today’s environment of content created across the globe being made available via social media platforms. Fact, fiction, truth or not, as a consumer of content, I often think about the responsibility I have when creating, sharing and linking content on social media. I also realize, not everybody does.
Remember the game of telephone where somebody whispers a message in somebody’s ear and around the circle it goes and the last person who receives the message discovers what they heard is very different from the original message sent at the other end? It’s a classic game of how misinformation is spread unintentionally. Disinformation, on the other hand, is false information that is intentionally created to deceive.
But how do you know if you are sharing information that’s a belief, opinion, fact or fiction? One way is to do your own fact-checking using multiple sources before sharing content via face-to-face conversation or electronic media posting or sharing. If I see a post and exclaim, “That can’t be true!” I go look for truth. It’s just who I am.
Whether you want to be a good citizen reporter or not, keep in mind there are five measures of newsworthiness that the “media” follows when creating content. These same principles can apply when you are about to click the “share” button:
Timeliness: Is the information current?
Proximity: Is the information local to you?
Conflict and controversy: Everybody knows, conflict sells. How engaged do you want to be in the conflict and controversy?
Human interest: Unusual stories of people who you would like to know more about.
Relevance: What information is relevant for you in your daily life?
In the Aug. 2 Forbes Magazine article “Spotting Misinformation on Social Media Is Increasingly Challenging” by Peter Suciu, Roger Entner of Recon Analytics said in reference to social media, “Actually, the platforms profit from it because the more outrageous the content the more people react with it — this type of ‘engagement’ is what platforms are looking for; people reacting to things. It does not matter if is true or false, as long as they engage.”
This week, a former Facebook data scientist, Frances Haugen, testified at the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. In the Associated Press article, Haugen said, “Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy.”
The 37-year-old data scientist from Iowa also said she joined the company because “Facebook has the potential to bring out the best in us.” That’s probably one reason many of us created social media pages, too. We all love feeling the love with our friends and social connections. Possibly, as we create and share on social media our responsibility is that content can “bring out the best in us” too, because it’s the right thing to do.