Truth, Lies & Social Media
We live in a wonderful world. We are connected more than ever. Through Facebook, I’ve connected with friends and family that I couldn’t even FIND before 2005 without hiring a P.I. Through this blog, I am able to help authors all over the world and that is wonderful. I’m able to keep up with all kinds of news and world events and be a better citizen.
But all this technology has a steep price and we are wise to remain vigilant. Lately some things have me really overwhelmed (verklempt) so let’s chat.
Tawk amongst yuhselves. Just do what Barbara does….
Social media sites like Facebook now keep us abreast of all the horrible happenings in the world. In a way this is good. In the “old days” news and opinions were filtered through media gatekeepers. And sure, news is supposed to be unbiased, but so long as humans are relaying the news, that ain’t ever going to happen.
Thus, social media does bring attention to problems that might have been missed by the mainstream media. I support freedom of speech (even for those I don’t agree with), but I would like to talk about what information we are sharing. And, yeah, yeah, I am opening a can of worms, but someone has to do it…
The “Truth” About Statistics
I have a degree in Political Science. Few things will ruin you more than taking a class on Political Statistics. Just let me tell you Mark Twain was right when he said, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” Put this way, I can make a poll or study say anything I want. All I have to do is:
Change the wording of questions, the number of questions, the order of questions. Adjust the time the poll or surveys is taken or the place. Adjust the number of people surveyed. Adjust the pool of people surveyed. Adjust the definitions.
For instance, (and forgive me for relying on memory here so this is just an anecdotal example) when I was taking a Women in Politics class, there was a survey at a California university that came to the conclusion that over 90% of women had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by the time they reached 25. Of course, when one peeled back the survey, those conducting this research defined sexual assault very broadly to “any unwanted advance” which included any unwanted hug, shoulder/arm touch, compliment or comment.
Under that definition? How 10% of women escaped “being repeatedly sexually assaulted” is nothing short of miraculous.
Of course, one can get an idea of how “accurate” the poll is by looking at the fine print as to how the “study” was conducted, but how many people actually do that? How many people know to do that?
Thus, when stuff gets passed around on social media claiming that” 75% of all people who licked frogs later used heroin and thus frogs are clearly a gateway drug that should be stopped”…I stop to think it through before sharing.
Keep in mind that there will always be a study to counter another study. The same American Heart Association that told us I Can’t Believe It Ever Came From Nature was the cure for heart disease now has studies that led to removing those exact same trans-fats from the shelves.
So take “studies” and “polls” with a grain of salt (or salt-substitute).
Lack of Info in Info-Graphics
Info-graphics make me twitch, namely because most of the time they are grossly misleading, have an agenda and are often inaccurate. More often than not, the only purpose they serve is to tick people off and make them emotional.
For instance, there was some info-graphic comparing the number of people killed by police in the U.K. versus the U.S. All right. Problem was, it used a whole number and not a per capita percentage. Thus, when people get a look, they go, “OMG! American police are so AWFUL! Why can’t they be like the U.K.?” How many take time to go?
“Um, wait a minute. We aren’t comparing equal things.”
This info-graphic was like comparing the number of car accident fatalities in Montana to Los Angeles.
OMG! Los Angeles is murdering people with CARS!
They have a lot more people driving a lot more cars. Los Angeles has a far higher population density. This is akin to comparing the number of deaths by bear attacks in Canada with those in Mexico.
Mexico clearly handles bear attacks way better than those “polite” Canadians because there are NO bear attacks in Mexico. What is Canada HIDING?
Thus, anything that uses a whole number to compare X to Y? Be wary.
As a blogger, I love that I don’t have to query gatekeepers to express an opinion. Problem is, I don’t have to query gatekeepers to express an opinion. This means I can say whatever I want and pretty much be immune from the rigorous fact-checking standards traditional journalists are held to.
What bugs me is there are all kinds of sites that use “journalistic titles” to seem like they are legit, when all they are doing is spreading propaganda bunk. Our job is to use those critical thinking skills to call foul. Often these sites will post “articles” on emotional events (namely because they get paid for advertising and every click-through is a ka-ching!).
I don’t care for these sites at all, even those who might be people I agree with ideologically. The reason is that when we read a blogger, we know we are getting an op ed piece. When a site puts “news” or “journal” or something similar in the title, this is misrepresentation.
This is a long way to say, “Consider the source” 😉 . Remember, we are the new Gatekeepers.
One tool I see passed around social media is the False Logic to rile people up. I’ve grown up in the Bible Belt and wasn’t allowed to play with other kids because we watched Scooby Doo and wore pants and that was proof we were bound for hell.
Yeah, whatever. Different strokes for different folks.
One of the reasons I didn’t go to Baylor University even though they had a premium debate team (and debate was my thing) was because it is a Baptist university. Being a Baptist University (and a PRIVATE university) they didn’t allow dancing and required females wear skirts, which they have a right to do.
Guess what? I like to dance. I also hate skirts…namely because my thighs rub together. In that case, I didn’t have to GO there. I went to…*GASP* another college.
Last week, I saw all these stories passed around because a school sent a 5 year-old home for wearing a dress that showed her shoulders. At first glance? OMG! Religious HATERS. Slut-shaming a CHILD!
Here’s the thing, the parents were likely given a dress code at the beginning of the year. FOLLOW THE DRESS CODE. It is simple. If you don’t like it? Challenge it, change schools or homeschool. And I don’t care that your kid “wore it to church and the church had no problem with her showing her shoulders” because that church likely…had a different dress code.
I also don’t care that there were no “male-specific” rules that were similar. When it becomes chic for boys to wear tube tops, I’m sure that will be addressed in the code and you completely missed the point. Follow the RULES.
Also, the school might not be shaming your girls, they might just be concerned that if she plays on the monkey bars, a dress like that might just come OFF and, while she might nail that dismount from the monkey bars, she might also be missing her dress and standing there in nothing but sneakers and Wonder Woman panties.
…which happened to me in third grade and I still carry the hurt.
I’m really not that motivated to rally behind people who can’t follow basic instructions.
Sometimes stories really aren’t political. Really.
Ad Hominem Attacks
I don’t like any kind of blanket personal attack. That is my personal purview. I think that when we resort to name-calling and personal attacks, what we are essentially saying is that we are insecure with our belief/position and that we need to resort to bullying to make a point.
Memes love to lump all kinds of groups together to promote an agenda and use false syllogisms to make a point.
Fact: There were (are) Christian members of the KKK.
Fact: The KKK is a race hate group who used/uses domestic terrorism for their agenda.
Meme: Christians are KKK members who are domestic terrorists and racists.
Though I am wholly against censorship of any kind, we do need to be vigilant about idiocy because it can spread. We had a saying in sales: Say it once, say it twice, say it three times, say it four times and they will believe.
Maybe we don’t want to call out
idiocy logical fallacies when we see them, but we can at least think before spreading them.
This said, I am a writer. I believe there are no sacred cows.
Freedom to Joke/Criticize
I blogged about this a while back The Disease of Self-Importance, but here is a refresher to the point.
In the days when monarchies were all the rage, there was one very powerful position some might not be aware of…the court jester. Every ruler had at least one jester and the jester was allowed to mock, poke fun and joke about those in power without repercussions.
The role of the jester was to offer honesty and perspective. Monarchs knew that being surrounded by too many Yes Men who feared reprisal was unwise and dangerous. The jester’s job was to ground rulers and keep them from getting too full of themselves.
I’ve been blessed to do a lot of traveling and not all my destinations were nice places. I can honestly say, show me a country that cannot joke or criticize and I will show you a police state. Trust me. In Syria? You don’t joke. It’s a good way to disappear and have your family disappear as well.
When any leader, idea, religion, government is above being lampooned? That’s dangerous ground. I am not particularly fond of all the flamboyant ways the writers of Southpark kill off Jesus, but no faith is a sacred cow. Not even mine. Granted, I have the right to be upset, to blog, to express an opinion, to vote, to use my purchasing power to influence, but stringing people up for blasphemy is a treacherous slippery slope.
We should not shelter one belief over another. At least in my country, I think you have the right to believe in whatever you want and will defend your right to do so. Want to dress in track suits and worship a comet that’s “really a spaceship”? Go ahead. But I also have the right to question, disagree with or even make fun of that 😉 .
With Great Power…
…comes great responsibility. Social media is a wonderful tool, but like all tools, it is a tool. The tool alone is inert. How we wield it is all up to us. I know all of you guys are passionate and have beliefs and I support that. But I will say it is also easy to get depressed and overwhelmed on social media. A good dose of critical thinking, however, can counter some of the effects.
And, sometimes? We just need to scroll on by. We cannot be passionate about everything equally. Remember, we are not the Jackass Whisperer. Jerks and bullies really have no intention of engaging in a thoughtful debate or even changing their positions…so just move on.
You will thank me later.
Social Media is SOCIAL
At the end of the day, social media is social. If we wouldn’t rant about politics, sex and religion at the workplace or a cocktail party? Why on Facebook? If we’d check out facts in life before spreading something, why not on-line? If we wouldn’t call people names in person, why on social media?
In life, there are consequences for being a jerk. Same on social media. Be passionate, care, change the world! I hope you do. But in the meantime? I hope to carry the torch of critical thinking, common sense and basic kindness. Someone has to set the example, might as well be the writers.
What are your thoughts? And feel free to disagree, I only ask that we be civil/respectful. Do the info-graphics make you cray-cray? Do you often avoid social media or unfollow people because it gives you a stress headache? What litmus test do you apply to information before “ingesting”?
Do you think the world is really that more of a crappy place than it was 20 years ago or is it because every time a dictator farts, we hear about it on Facebook? Do you get overwhelmed by all the things you should CARE about? Do you find yourself becoming more desensitized?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
April’s WINNER! Stan R. Mitchell. Please send your 5000 word Word document in an attachment to kristen at wana intl dot com. Congratulations!
Will announce the Dojo Diva winner on next post.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.