Reliably Unreliable

· Column A: Trust, authenticity and accuracy

· Column B: Facebook

· Column C: “Most of the information we spread online is quantifiably ‘bullshit’

The basic formula for a successful social media website seems to be pretty universal, consisting of at least three factors. A way for people to vocalize what’s one their minds, for others to be able to add to this thought, and arguably the most important factor, a reward system to validate how people feel. Whether its Reddit’s karma system, Twitter’s starring system, or the more recent “reactions” from Facebook, all these websites, albeit different in format, revolve around the same basic concept, the broadcasting of whatever anyone thinks about. The reward system, however, has left people with an insatiable hunger towards a need for verification from others in the social media circles. This need for recognition lead people to try and produce anything to grab attention, whether the posts are clickbait on harmless exaggerations of stories, larger issues, like medication and politics, or just plain radical views on social issues, they all fall under a common name of ‘Pseudo-profound bullshit’.

Pseudo-profound bullshit refers to bold statements that claim to have deep meaning through “big words” but if one were to actually look into the statements themselves and what they contained, it would be easy to see that very little information is actually provided within the context. The biggest issue, with people sharing all this information, is how to check for its authenticity, how can anyone be sure of the information being spread if people will take an implied meaning from glamorized articles and staple it as the article’s headline to gain better responses from people. This mindless sharing of information devalues the information that is accurate and researched; it defaces the work of journalists who delve into whatever they are writing to bring out the truth. Where media should be the work of people who have studied it, and actually want to uncover truths and facts and deliver them to people, that seems to be too tedious for people to follow through with, as they would apparently rather read shorter more entertaining “news” that uses buzzwords and other keywords in patterns to appeal easier to read to the public.

In Harry Frankfurt’s “on bullshit”, he very distinctly shows how different groups of people react to the Pseudo-profound bullshit, he separates the groups into two, analytical thinkers, who will look deeper into the articles they find, try to understand what is being said, and research more on the subject if they find interest in it to try and have a deeper more well-rounded understanding of the subject before they decide to share it to everyone on their friends group, and try to even clear up any misunderstandings from the source that they found it on. The biggest example of this would be when political candidates state false facts to gain popularity, and their supporters would spread this misguided information to further their popularity, this would result in some more well versed person to come and try to correct the information. The second group of people is those whom will not read the whole article, rather relying on the exaggerated headline to further send this inaccurate news piece. They also seem to be the kind of people to be very religious, or believe in alternative medicines, this indicates a less firm belief in science and facts. This problem could be solved by a focus on education to make sure that rumors are not falsely perceived as reliable.

One of the larger problems that needs to be dealt with respect to different types of articles is the fashion in which the serious and the lighthearted seem to get mixed up on social media platforms, with no way of telling apart which is which. This could lead to a potential rift where only some are written by “real” journalists so to speak, and others are written by media outlets that just want to grab attention for the sake of views. The truth and accuracy of information seems to get lost in-between all these factors, and that seems like an important modern day issue, that needs to be addressed.

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