A post about government taking "big brother" too far....or a post about some evil corporation tainting our existence...such things feed into the sense many of us have that things aren't "right". And there are PLENTY of things that aren't right. Some of them glaringly obvious, but only if you take the time to investigate claims.
We live in a time that is in many ways quite disturbing, but equally fascinating. We have a media environment largely dominated by corporate news outlets. But we also have more people engaged in communication and the dissemination of knowledge than ever before.
We have horrendously vertically aligned communities online where you can easily surround yourself with people who will either agree with you....or perhaps more insidiously convince you to agree with them.
The most vicarious of nonsense story can easily go viral, and be believed en-masse by many thousands, and yet be sitting in the same web browser one could use a tiny bit of effort to easily debunk.
People confuse authority truth and knowledge to their detriment. In order to navigate the modern stream of information one must embrace a few basic tenets to survive and grow.
1). BE A SKEPTIC, ESPECIALLY OF THOSE THINGS YOU MIGHT AGREE WITH.
I made this first tip big because it is vitally IMPORTANT. Case in point, I consider myself a relatively liberal person when it comes to social philosophy and leaning towards libertarian ideals when it comes to fiscal and constitutional matters. So when I see something posted by the largest Libertarian group on Facebook I'm probably going to check it out. What I'm not going to do, even if I self-identify as a person with Libertarian ideals, is take anything they post at their word. I tend to try to fact check things, especially if the claims made are extraordinary ones.
And I don't do this because I mistrust the intentions of others, so it isn't some cynical ploy. I do it to fight against my own confirmation biases...and reveal those of others.
Most importantly, it is shockingly easy to do if you have at least a few firing neurons. It's not hard...AT ALL!
In today's particular example, a couple of minutes worth of digging showed a post by a Facebook group with half a million followers was made up nonsense written originally by a certifiable wacko. Groups large and small can make mistakes true, but large ones influence large groups of people.....perhaps into believing things that aren't remotely true.
This is bad....and insidious...
2). Do your own investigative reporting.
We have an interesting dynamic at play in modern media....at least for the lazy. And I don't mean this as a slight either. We've all for generations expected our news and media outlets to at least present the news in a reasonably balanced fashion, but this isn't really the case anymore.
- Fox News. Hates anything about democrats or the government.....unless its the military of course.
- MSNBC. Hates anything about republicans....skeptical of the government....unless its entitlements of course.
- CNN. Tries to dumb down the news too far, almost to the point it's not even news anymore.
- Insertnameofwannabenewsblog.com. Linear articles that narrowly align with a given worldview or ideology (one that may or may not actually track with reality).
It goes down hill from here....
What doesn't go downhill however is the absolute plethora of real information online. But there is so much of it that simple and parochial ideas of knowledge and truth aren't going to just fall into your lap like you've (probably falsely) believed they should....because you thought they always had.
Those days (if they ever truly existed) are over.
There is a benefit to this process as well. You discover so many of the "gloom and doom" stories you tend to have hammered into your face daily on social media are complete bullshit. It doesn't mean everything is 100% peachy....but you can at least comfort yourself with the fact that "conspiracy" isn't required to explain all the bad things that seem to happen.
Plain old human nature, shortsightedness, insularity, and a hefty dose of ego and greed usually suffice. Those sorts of things are solvable whether there are real conspiracies or not, so it makes the whole idea of focusing on conspiracy stand out as the true waste of time that it is.