I’m a journalism student. I plan on being a journalist. I read the news. I watch the news. I listen to the news.
And I listen to the viewers and listeners.
“They just want to be first to break the news. They don’t care about being right.”
“Can you believe how biased they are?”
“Good grief, do they even check their information before broadcasting it?”
“YOU’RE going to be one of them?”
“How could they pass along something without checking it?”
They’re all right. The media does all of these things. I know they do. They update their website before verifying the story. They share a video before determining if it’s real or clever special effects. Then there’s the “fair and balanced” reporting that isn’t – whether they lean left or right, they’re obviously biased.
I know there are problems in the media. You can find countless examples without much effort. But do me a small favor.
Review those quotes from above. Then look at your Facebook feed. Take a moment to read through the things your friends (and you) have recently posted. If you’re lucky, you’ll fail to see my point.
If you’re like me, you’re not so lucky. Maybe you’re even one of the friends that make me cringe on a daily basis. My feed is full of things Morgan Freeman never said, animals and insects that do not exist and food scares sure to make someone stop eating McDonalds or drinking milk. The more sensational the story, the more likely it is to show up multiple times.
In this age of technology, where we can pass information along in the blink of an eye, it’s easy to forget about being accurate and focus on being first. When “likes” are a measure of acceptance and shares are how votes are tallied in the popularity contest, there’s no time for fact-checking.
“KFC is using mutant chickens! 1,000 shares will SURELY make them stop!!”
“Look at this picture of a huge Angolan Witch spider – it eats dogs AND cats!! Better tell Mom to keep Deuce in the house.”
Aside from the fact that doing this contributes to the growing problem of misinformation on the web, it also does two other things. First, it makes you look increasingly ridiculous to anyone that DOES take an extra few seconds to verify what you’ve shared is false (www.snopes.com is pretty handy). Second, you can do irreparable damage to a person or a business with your carelessness. I don’t want to eat mutant meat for lunch. But I made sure to check the accuracy before kicking the Colonel and his 11 herbs and spices to the curb.
Words are powerful. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then the power in all the shared images on Facebook must be enormous. It’s a shame most of it is wielded so thoughtlessly.