I’m sure everyone is familiar with all the political memes and articles that float around Facebook from time to time, especially when an election is coming up, and the stories that tell you not to pee on airplanes and other such nonsense. Whenever I see one of these, whether or not I want to share it (I usually don’t) I go straight to Snopes.com and see if it’s listed. 99% of the time it is, and 99% of the time, it’s false.
Why do I do this? Well, for one, I like to acquire information, that’s why I’m in college and will be starting grad school in less than a year. It’s why I am constantly looking stuff up online and checking various sources (especially in the case of political claims). Essentially, I don’t like to waste my time with crap information that isn’t true.
So I usually leave a comment: “Snopes before you post!” and the link explaining why the post is false. Is it because I’m an insufferable know-it-all? Perhaps. However, I maintain that wanting to know the truth, and seeking it out in a responsible manner, is not insufferable, nor do I claim to know everything. I will fully admit that in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know squat.
Then people get angry with me, not usually the first time, but somewhere around the fifth or sixth post that I tell them isn’t true. Why, exactly, are you getting angry with me because I took the extra five seconds to verify a story before I believed it and you didn’t? Facebook isn’t exactly a credible source for information, and not making sure what you post is true is, in my opinion, vastly irresponsible; unless, of course, your goal is to spread some bullshit story and see how many people believe you. If that’s the case, then by all means, carry on!
I’m talking about the stories that enrage people, the ones that influence them to vote, or buy a certain product, or boycott another. The stories that show pictures of celebrities that not only didn’t say what is being written, they also have completely opposing views of what is written.
Do I “troll”* my friends’ pages and search for posts to call them out on, embarrass them in front of their friends and family, make them feel stupid, and otherwise force them to bow to my narcissism, like it or not? No.
Not even “no.” That’s like a “hell no,” or a “fuck no,” or a “what the fuck is wrong with you, do you really think I’m that much of a douchebag?” no.
I simply check my Facebook every hour or two (dude, I spend all day either cleaning, writing papers, reading, or posting discussions on my class page for credit, I get bored as fuck), and when I see a post pop up that’s making sensational claims, I check it out to see if it’s even something I should bother reading. I like to know what people are posting and thinking, I love seeing what my friends are up to, but I also feel that it’s important to remember the impact that believing and spreading libelous/slanderous material has. Didn’t we all get the “don’t spread rumors” talk in second grade? Do people think that doesn’t apply anymore once they’re out of grade school?
My current love affair with fact-checking started with the 2012 elections. Still maintaining a lot of republican Navy friends, but also gathering some liberal California hippie friends, I noticed that people were throwing around a lot of memes that weren’t only not true, but were just stupid. You know the ones: the ones that you can immediately identify as being false because they’re so sensationalist. At first, I’d tentatively comment and ask “is this really something that you believe?” and I’d get some piss-and-vinegar answer that usually went along the lines of “Obama’s the worst thing to ever happen to this country! He’s just like Hitler! He’s going to ruin America!” Which gave me pause:
Why, exactly, do people hate certain politicians so much?
I think I’m beginning to divine the answer.
It’s because they’re not getting factual information, and if they are, it’s being delivered in such a way that it becomes fiction.
I recently saw a presentation in one of my classes that had a graph depicting the differences in omega-6 concentrations in animal meat in grain-vs grass-fed beef, and it looked to be a staggering difference, the whole class was shocked – until I saw (and pointed out) that the scale was from 0 – 1%. So the concentration went from about 0.8 or 0.9 percent in grain-fed cows, to around 0.1 or 0.2 percent in grass-fed cows. Not that I am a proponent of eating grain-fed meat, (I don’t even eat meat anymore, so…) I’m just saying that one of the major arguments in the grass vs grain debate is that we’re getting too much omega-6 with grain-fed animals; in reality, it’s really a negligible amount.
People that get their information from sources that use this kind of manipulation worry me, and it’s because there’s a cycle going on that people don’t seem to notice: watching MSNBC or FOX promotes certain views (liberal and conservative, respectively), and these views influence the way events are seen in the eyes of the viewer. Eventually, it gets to the point that a liberal absolutely can’t stand to watch FOX and a conservative would rather shoot themselves than watch MSNBC. This is for two reasons: one, their partisan bias has gotten so ingrained in their viewers’ brains that they automatically start thinking this is “real news;” and two, both networks are entirely too extreme in their bias, to the point where they can report two completely different things on the same exact story.
So what happens? Now that people have been swept up in the bias, they require it in order to form opinions. Instead of getting their information from an unbiased source that presents only facts, and no opinions, (good luck with that…) and coming up with their own logical conclusion, they require the opinions of their news source to tell them how to think.
That is some scary shit, ladies and gentlemen.
What does all this have to do with why I call people out on posting horseshit on Facebook? It’s because I think it is fucking sad that America’s population, people who vote, can’t think for themselves. They’ll believe absolutely anything, and if someone (like me) challenges a particular belief that others hold to be true, when it’s not, I become the asshole. I’m the “jaded” one, the know-it-all narcissist who just has to be right.
I don’t have to be right, I want you to be right.
I want you to take the time to get the facts before forming an opinion, not relying on others to tell you what to think. That’s okay while you’re young and dumb and you’re getting most of your ideals from your parents, but for crying out loud, eventually you need to get out there and think on your own. Honestly, I only registered to vote last year. Why? Because I didn’t feel like I was informed enough before that, and I was still learning what I agreed or disagreed with when it came to politics. Now, I take hours, days, researching the items on the ballot, getting all the information I can and trying to decide what the best voting course would be.
When I went to vote last fall, a little old woman, who probably didn’t even know who she was, was being told how to vote in the booth by a younger woman. I guarantee she had no idea what the hell she was even doing. That is so wrong.
This post wasn’t really meant to be political, but as most of my posts tend to evolve as I write them, that’s simply where it went. I’m sure my insatiable desire to have the correct information could be labeled as a character flaw, it could be simplified into the simple “need to be right,” but at least I can defend my beliefs with my convictions, at least I get the information before forming an opinion. Is Facebook the be-all-end-all of the world? No, but considering how many people access it, I think it’s got a fair amount of pull when it comes to people’s personal opinions, unfortunately.
So, do me a favor (or don’t, whatever), don’t get pissed off at me for letting you know that your post isn’t true or carries some ridiculous bias, I’m simply a concerned friend who knows you’re smarter than that. If I thought you were beyond hope, trust me, I’d unfriend you first. Also, if what you’re posting actually is indicative of your opinion, simply say that, you don’t have to tell me to fuck off. Yes, it’s your Facebook page, but Facebook is for interaction, and not all interactions involve everyone agreeing with everything you say. I welcome challenges to my beliefs, it makes me think, do more research, and either reaffirm my position, or take up a new one. Honestly, if you don’t want people’s input on the stuff you post, you probably shouldn’t post it, or you should disable the ability to comment. I understand not wanting to “get into it,” but you have to take responsibility for your right to free speech. You have the right to say whatever you want, and I have the right to challenge it. Maybe I really am full of piss and vinegar, and maybe I take too much stock in not only my own opinion, but others’, but that’s what happens when you actually care about stuff, and I’d rather care, than be full of apathy and watch Idiocracy take place right before my very eyes.
Challenge me! If you think this post is fucked up, and that I’m a total douche, tell me in the comments, I can take it!
*I’ve never understood why it’s called “trolling,” other than the obvious link to the insult of calling someone a “troll.” This term actually embodies the spelling “trawl,” meaning to “search through large amount[s] of information: to search for something through a large amount of information or many possibilities.” – Bing Dictionary