Before I start, I am aware that most of you reading this found this article through a social media page. This irony is not lost on me, but bear with me.
The problem with social media news is not that good news, good reports, cannot be found on it; rather, the problem is that this good journalism is flooded among masses of clickbait, fake news, and deliberate misinterpretation. There are hundreds of different websites on both sides of the political spectrum that produce this rubbish, and it is depressingly simple to do. The basic issue is that there is essentially no oversight on what can be published on social media. As long as you are not unabashedly racist or somehow in breach of the law, you are basically good to go. This stands in direct contrast to traditional newspapers, where even the most loose of tabloids have strict editorial process to at least more reasonably hide an agenda. This means an awful lot of terrible, terrible journalism gets published. And this is a massive problem.
When a person reads something that supports their preconceived ideas, they tend to believe it. We are all guilty of this. If I was to tell a liberal that immigrants have a higher employment rate in the UK than ethnically British citizens, they would be likely to believe me. Similarly, if I was to tell a conservative that the British economy has grown every year a Tory led government has been in office since 1974, they’d be predisposed to agreeing with me. Neither of those statements are at all true, and therein lies the issue.
Social media news can take a single, widely disputed report, and extrapolate wildly from it with that as its source, and people will believe it. Sometimes, they’ll even just make stuff up, and people will believe it. Because why wouldn’t they? It is promoted as news, it looks realistic, and it supports our opinion, so why fact check? We all do this. What this leads to though, is nearly everybody having an opinion on everything, taken off of social media. They might not be particularly supported opinions, or even thought on for longer than it takes to read a 100 word article, but social media news has brewed them into existence. This allows people to disagree with each other on a topic, both waving poorly researched and biased articles as their evidence, each disregarding the oppositions article as ‘fake news’ while holding their equivalent up as a gold standard. It is causing a crisis.
This sort of thing has of course happened for centuries. People have been slamming each other in newspapers and disagreeing ever since newspapers were invented, and you only have to read the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian to see that even ‘respected’ newspapers remain guilty of it. But it is much more evidence based there. They disagree, but their opinions are based in reality. Social media has taken away that aspect, and that is terrifying.
So people, please fact check the statistics you see. Question every article you read. Question this article, piece together my agenda. We are in danger of this biased rubbish becoming the norm for news. We cannot let this happen.