My Thoughts On: Traditional/Mainstream Media, Social Media, and the Rumor/Gossip Mill

I always said I was going to avoid these topics, but the times…the times call for them so here we go. Please note that this is going to be more catered towards the current Coronavirus situation, but can easily be applied to anything else…like I don’t know, maybe when the election politics start to really begin or when your neighborhood or friend group has a problem.

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I’ll be honest, I don’t really have any answers when it comes to our news and social media these days. I just found myself getting increasingly frustrated with what I was seeing across the board from the traditional media, to influencers, to our local community (aka gossip mill). I needed to ramble my thoughts out and figure out what I can do for myself about it.

What a world we live in today where we can learn just about anything at the drop of a pin. We get notified the moment things happen (sometimes even before they happen), we can share things at quick speeds with friends and family, and ultimately we can be inundated with information round the clock. It can be a truly wonderful thing and something that I have definitely been incredibly grateful for (especially living so far away). However, most good things also have a negative aspect and in this case, that negative aspect can be damaging.

Obviously with Social Media we have talked about how damaging it can be with cyber bullying and such, but that is not what I am going to be referencing today. Today I am going to be talking about what I think some of the other dangers of this rapid media, online world that we live in today.

Danger #1 Bias

Here’s the thing we are all biased. From a very young age we start shaping our mind and how we see the world around us. Our parents play a role, our community plays a role, our friends, where we live, what we see every day, where we go to school, all of these are factors in what our outlook is on the world. This outlook leads (or rather is equal to) our bias. So, we all have a bit of a bias when it comes to…well life. It’s just who we are. This doesn’t mean we are close minded or not open to learning, it’s just important to recognize that we all have a bit of bias.

Now, wouldn’t that make sense to then extend to our news outlets, social medias, friends, etc.? Now, I know, this may sound like such common sense, but I feel like it is so important to keep in mind. We hear about how certain news outlets are biased, but it’s important to remember that most of your news outlets are going to have some sort of bias. From who they hire, to what they publish, to how they advertise what they publish, there is a bias to just about everything. That’s just the nature of the world that we live in.

As with anything, I would check a variety of sources of anything that you read. Obviously, government entities are a good place to get the information from, but if that is not possible (sometimes it won’t be), then looking at various sources is your best bet. Make sure you take the time to fully educate and understand a situation before speaking about it…which brings us to Danger #2.

Danger #2 Misinformation

I think this is hands down one of the biggest dangers of living in the world that we are in today. Information moves so quickly and often times moves faster than the official authorities can actually put the information. For a specific example of this, we can look no further than the current crisis that we are in. In our community information about a confirmed case of Covid-19 was circulating across the community before the official channels could even say something. This led to not only misinformation going around (A LOT of that was going around), but a heightened state of panic started to break out due to that, AND the general public was then calling for answers from the officials in charge.

Now, two things from this…

  • It’s important to wait for information from an official organization. We could debate the merits of sources and of what we hear from our “people”, but at the end of the day it’s all hear say until we get full answers and information. Often times what we are hearing from those around us are only mild versions of what the facts are, that have been distorted by the amount of people that they have heard from. This is obviously different depending on your actual source, if you are hearing from a significant other who is right in the location in the center of the action that is different than someone who heard it from someone who heard it from someone. In most cases it is just better to wait for the official statement to stop any sort of misinformation going around.
  • A lot of times when a government organization or official organization (think Military, CDC, WHO, etc.) puts out information they have done so after collecting as much of the accurate information as they can AND exploring different solutions for whatever is going on. They present the facts of the situation and offer up what they are doing/recommending to combat whatever is going on. Often times, if you are getting upset with information NOT being put out, think about what they are trying to do. The first goal should be to collect the facts and implement immediate options for the situation. The first goal is not always notifying the public, this is how panic, and misinformation occurs. Honestly, would you rather be told “Oh hey, here is something serious going on” OR “Oh hey, here is something serious that has happened, BUT we have already taken steps a, b, and c AND here are our recommendations for the next little bit. I know I would rather the second.

If you are not getting answers from an official organization at the time that you are looking around I would either recommend just being patient OR, following the earlier advice of looking at various sites. Don’t go with the first article you read, but rather look across the board at various sites, read various articles, and draw the best conclusion you are able until you can get an official brief. Don’t prevent what you are finding as facts (unless it comes from the aforementioned official organization), but rather as what you have found for your own purposes. Personally, I always recommend that others do their own research and bounce things off of several friends in different sectors while we wait for information.

Danger #3 Too Much at One Time/Being Too Involved

We all know that too much of a thing may not always be good and the same can be applied to media/social media/etc. With just how easy to get the news, to see what others are doing, to be connected, it can become very easy to fall into the trap of being too connected.  It seems to be a fine line as to when the news and being connected is too much. I’ve definitely experienced this and have found that at times, less is more. With the constant news cycle, it is easy to get sucked into always needing to know, to be connected, to have all the information, BUT I find that in some ways this is counterproductive and dangerous. Unfortunately, I don’t really have an answer or solution to this as I think this is just the way our lives trend right now. The only suggestion that I have is to take time away. When you start to feel that way, just step back, step away and take a day to be not so involved.

So, what’s the answer? Again, I don’t really have one. I feel like this is going to be a revolving door issue as we continue to deal with a new vastly online world that has become even more online in the past couple months. I don’t know if any of this has made sense, or if you’re even still reading this (if you are-thank you!), but it’s been a little over 2 months of seeing these Dangers pop up consistently and I felt like something needed to be said. So, here’s me adding my small voice to the loud crowd.

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