Two words – Fake News.
Lies, gossip, speculation and slander have been prevalent in society ever since humans developed the concept of language. Gossip was in-fact the prime cause of language development and even the bedrock upon which human connections were developed, ultimately leading to the unification of the word as we see it today. But what has changed in the last decade with the penetration and power of social media that has completely destroyed the notion of trust.? Everything now seems fake until proven otherwise.
Thanks to hundreds of algorithms at work, Facebook has turned into an echo-chamber. I read somewhere that TV was in-fact much better – even if it created false narratives and spread rumours, it did that to extremely large audiences and gave a united message. Today social media has made the reality different for every one of us, it is a mind numbing concept – make your own reality and facts, dividing us at every level. How can the fast growing tentacles of this gigantic beast be controlled?
I am very critical of social media’s role in this emergence of “fake news” and “alternate facts”. I always wondered who had the time to make these elaborate articles look so genuine with chock-full of bullshit and make clever gifs and animated files, videos and clickbaits. It is with horror I read a report about how making these false news items and “viral” content is also an industry. You can now “buy” twitter followers to boost your credibility, hire “troll farms” to spew malicious lies and outright nonsense at your detractors and thanks to the AI algorithms of Facebook, connect intimately with only the crowd of your choice. This isn’t the rise of social media, it is psychological warfare.
It in turn has made me a skeptic. I refuse to trust anyone (apart from a very small inner circle) and my eyes quickly scan for the sources. I have quit all forms of social media and need atleast two or three independent sources to confirm any news before putting my faith into it. You might call it a good habit, but it is draining. The more you run away from vile, unsubstantiated news, the more it is flung at you and your life becomes more and more difficult. Look for sources, trust no WhatsApp forward and learn how to maneuver google’s search lists to spot authentic content. As far as Google’s involvement in my life, I have given up and have to implicitly trust this one company. I can only hope that they are hiring the best cryptographers and have a tough handle on their security unlike yahoo.
I try and get inspired from simpler creatures like my dogs and people who have led relatively uncomplicated lives like my parents. I am consciously trying to live a simpler, more fulfilling life offline with a minimal online presence. I knew the internet was dangerous right from the yahoo chatroom days but off late this danger is threatening our very existence. Tech-industry folks, drop striving for the bottom-line alone and get a conscience!! How long will you pretend to just be tech platforms with no social conscience? How long will you focus on just the business model without any concern for its sources? How will you recover the trust from your users? When will you go back to being the fun websites to connect with family and friends and making life convenient without being a platform for showing off, spreading misinformation and creating dangerous worlds for people to inhabit?
Everyday I read the news, I sigh and wonder what happened. Seriously, how did we get here?