We’re all journalists now

Professional news sources are supposed to act as a fact-check filter so that the information available for public consumption paints a relatively (within a few degrees at least) accurate portrait of reality. When that filter is removed and everyone becomes a national correspondent on their own experiences, the potential for an inaccurately reported reality greatly increases. There is a strong motivation to engage in this “altered reporting” due to the existence of instant gratification “rewards” (likes, shares, fame) which serve as a source of the endorphin releases that have become integral parts to so many of our psyches. When a news event happens the goal is to make that news event about you and position yourself in a way that leverages your experiences for greater “rewards.” If those experiences don’t precisely line-up with an expected narrative, the lack of fact-check filter or accountability on social media allows for significant alterations to your true experiences to fit a newly created experience into that narrative. We, as media consumers, then have our own bias and preconceived narrative confirmed by these unverified “experiences.” And because true news sources are now desperate for revenue streams (advertising and clicks), any popular, easy to report, cheap to produce story gets significant play.

So what this adds up to is a culture of extreme misinformation that severely muddies the waters of our political conversations and keeps all sides yelling about something that didn’t even happen.

So I’m begging you, everyone from all sides, as there is no going back in time and social media can be a great resource to spread knowledge if used well, please do your best to vet stories before you post them, maybe don’t believe everything you see on twitter or Facebook right away, and be careful with the stories you do share. Whether we wanted to be or not, we are all reporters now and have a place in the overall political landscape.

For reference on the hate crime issue from the reason article, the SPLC is what most news sites are citing with their “200 incidents since the election” stat. I’m very curious to see this compared to the average number of incidents during the same time period over the last 10-20 years.

Additionally, SPLC states, “Pulling from news reports, social media, and direct submissions at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, the SPLC had counted 201 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation across the country as of Friday, November 11 at 5pm. These range from anti-Black to anti-woman to anti-LGBT incidents. There were many examples of vandalism and epithets directed at individuals. Often times, types of harassment overlapped and many incidents, though not all, involved direct references to the Trump campaign. Every incident could not be immediately independently verified.”

I’m willing to venture that maybe 25% of the incidents are false reports, which certainly leaves a lot of hate out there. However whether this is the sign of a permanent upswing is doubtful as the SPLC stats show the number of incidents seem to have peaked and are now declining.

Anyways, I just wish people would research stuff more before they post something demonstrably false.

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