‘Full of lies’

Published 6:36 pm Thursday, January 9, 2020

Sometimes, a headline can say it all. A Jan. 8 story from USA Today entitled, “Social media is full of lies, and the Iran attacks show just how dangerous they’ve become” speaks to a sad truth of the Information Age.

The content of the article focuses on the spread of misinformation regarding the recent tensions between the United States and Iran, ranging from false reports of the killing of 20 American service members in Iranian airstrikes to misinformation being circulated about the return of the military draft.

In the hours after the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the term “World War III” was trending for hours on Twitter. CNN reports that traffic to the U.S. Selective Service website was so heavy, it crashed the site. Prime examples of fear and raw emotion whipped up into a panicked frenzy, making recent world events seem all the more frightening.

There is no question that social media and the internet in general have fundamentally changed the way we interact with one another and the way the American public consumes its news. In the blink of an eye, a post can spread like wildfire, spreading misinformation and outright lies. False information can travel around the world and be shared thousands of times before it can be determined true or false.

The noise of social media can be overwhelming and dangerous, spreading fear, confusion and falsehoods. It can be a powerful tool for propaganda and a dangerous weapon in the hands of those who would use it for nefarious purposes.

Some would argue that the rise of social media has made journalism irrelevant, but they couldn’t be more wrong. In the world we live in, good journalism remains one of the guardians of truth in a world evermore carried away with lies.

But it doesn’t take a trained journalist to help safeguard the truth. That starts with each and every one of us thinking critically about our words and what we post on social media; not falling into the trap of instant sharing and getting so caught up on what’s being said on Facebook or Twitter.

In short, don’t believe everything you read, don’t trust every headline you see and don’t put your faith in every photo that gets shared. Instead, think critically. Use your brain and do your homework before blindly sharing things on social media. Question the source and its validity. Don’t unintentionally let someone else’s lies become your own.

We live in a country where we are fortunate to have the freedom of speech enshrined in our country’s foundational document, the U.S. Constitution. Like all rights, however, that one also comes with responsibility. Please don’t let your freedom of speech, combined with the lure of social media, make you an agent of misinformation. Instead, think before you share and consider your responsibility to the truth.