Quam column: Is social media making us dumber?
Yes. I'm pretty sure the answer to that headline is "yes".
The amount of garbage making its way around social media blows my mind, because the only way it "travels" and is widely seen is through people actually sharing it—because they believe it's true. It's of absolutely no surprise that trolls conjure up fake propaganda, but the sheer number of otherwise intelligent, normal people who actually buy into it and pass it along is shocking.
When I first saw the post suggesting student survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school massacre who were doing TV interviews were nothing more than paid actors, I thought there is NO WAY anybody would believe this. It was so obvious, and some of it had really poor Photoshopping.
Plus, it was just an old conspiracy theory that has continued to surface every single time there is a horrific tragedy like this. It's the same people who claimed the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was staged and the grieving parents were, again, paid actors.
It's the same type of people who deny the Holocaust actually happened. Nutcases, right? Usually this garbage doesn't live to see much light because it's so ridiculous, but for whatever reason, this time it managed to fool a lot of people. And here I thought we were all getting a little bit more savvy with this social media thing, but apparently not. And it isn't coming from one side of the political aisle — there's dirty-handed manipulation happening on both sides.
There are so many people who subscribe to these trash sites simply because they push out the narrative that they want to hear. It feels like more people than ever now would rather have somebody hand them a big lie—if it's something they want to believe—than an unbiased, truthful report.
And they will only consider the sources that hand them this propaganda to be the credible ones, because they're the ones who make people feel like they've been right all along.
So they'll share the lies, which are almost always on incredibly divisive and emotional issues, and this country's ever-deepening divide cracks even more ... one lie at a time and from right here in our small community.
So you see, this is not harmless. One can roll their eyes at social media all they want, but it has become incredibly powerful and is shaping our country in ways not everybody seems to understand.
We are walking around thinking we know it all because we read something on Facebook, when in fact, we would have been better off being completely ignorant of the issue than to be filled with dangerous lies.
This may be a very sad statement, but at this point, it's much better to be uninformed and happy than misled and angry. When we are exposed to, and buy into, somebody else's lies, we are, in fact, dumber than before doing so. Unless, of course, we actually begin to realize how we're being manipulated. We've all heard the saying, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me," and we really need to get to the second phase of that sentence with ourselves and take responsibility for what information we spread.
Look, it's good to disagree on policy and politics, and in fact it's healthy for this country. But for the sake of our sanity, our communities and our friendships, at least let us disagree and debate real facts, because when we come to the table armed with lies and propaganda, we are nothing but fools looking for affirmation, not solutions.