Time to Let “Fake News” & “Facebook Frenzies” Fade Away

Time to Let “Fake News” & “Facebook Frenzies” Fade Away

As the title of this article points to, is it really possible for them to fade away? With the “media mood swings” and the way mainstream media and our political camps have handled so-called news for the past decade and longer, I wonder? Since the term “fake news” has become the most recent hot button to use toward the “other” side, it often feels like we are living in a “soap opera” world where chaos and payback reigns! And our social media networks don’t seem to help much either.

How many times have you opened your email or Facebook and found what the source called the “latest” so-called news that “no other news outlet will publish!”? They say, “Read/View it before they shut us down!” And there doesn’t seem to be any historical context to balance the one-liners and whatever liberal or conservative agenda it purports to provide or prosecute. Many of these seem to consider themselves “America’s Finest News Source” and even use it as their tagline!

It seems, particularly on Facebook, to also have every kind of inflammatory and degrading so-called “political” cartoon posted by my FB friends of every political persuasion. It seems the person posting it on their timeline thought it would be something to laugh about, but more likely humiliate and laugh at whoever was the target. Yes, I do realize this kind of so-called “press” goes back millennia! Yet, it still deeply saddens me to see what it is doing to our country and communities.

With our current generation, it looks like President Trump is fair game as well. Yet, let us not forget how former President Obama was negatively characterized by more than a few of these so-called “news” sources, and not just by his policies either. In spite of the fact mainline and alternative news networks had to tread lightly because of our tragic history of prejudice played out in not just the news and movies of bygone eras, some showed up anyway. And keep in mind, during any campaign side-by-side photos would show up in ads and posts with the opponent not looking too good. Photos even went so far as to demonize the opponent, using those “hot-button” terms to market the belief to us more vulnerable masses! I bet you and I could name off any number of them we read, viewed, heard, or even said, sadly.

According to Pew Research Center, How social media is reshaping news (September 24, 2014), “Facebook is the obvious news powerhouse among the social media sites. Roughly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults use the site, and half of those users get news there — amounting to 30% of the general population.” Then add YouTube as the next biggest social news pathway (with about half of Americans using the site, with one-fifth getting news).

Social network users amount to 50% who share and repost news stories, images, and videos. About 46% of users discuss those news events or issues. Included in the social network maze are Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, and more. And as of January 2017, Facebook is still at the top with 68% user population. Another Pew Research Center article (October 25, 2016), The Political Environment on Social Media, stated “Some users enjoy the opportunities for political debate and engagement that social media facilitates, but many more express resignation, frustration over the tone and content of social platforms.”

Although 20% like seeing political posts and discussions, 37% consider themselves “worn out” by how many political posts and discussions they see. Those 59% of users who discuss politics on these sites with people they disagree find themselves stressed out and frustrated. There are also 64% of those users who find themselves having less in common politically and 49% actually become angrier as well. Just imagine the impact us “older” social media users have on our younger generation with 88% of US adult population with ages 18-29 logging in to Facebook! I wonder how many under 18 are watching us all spread “fake news” and “facebook frenzies.” Some may even throw a tantrum or two!

I am hoping, whether Democrat, Republican, or any other camp, we can begin to stop posting these questionable, derogatory sources, cartoons, and images. I realize for many of you the past eight years seem to justify any kind of “payback.” Yet, ask yourself, “What enduring good does it do for anyone, especially our communities and nation?” To my perspective, it only propagates more of the same sludge none of us need in the time ahead. Many of every political persuasion may be saying right now, “That’s just too bad. Your side slugged it our way for too many years. Now it’s our time and right to do it to you.”

Some of us older and hopefully wiser citizens just don’t have the energy anymore to constantly hit back. I consider that a very good thing too! Ask any physician. Constant, perpetual negative energy doesn’t do any person’s body and soul, young or old, any lasting good. And consider the fact as social network users age the number of users go from 88% (ages 18-29) and gradually reach 36% (ages 65 plus). So, maybe I am in good company here! Maybe we have learned to spend more of our time and energy with family, grandkids, and friends, face-to-face rather than Facebook or any other social media network. For any age demographic, 60% of users started using tech tools to reduce energy-draining, politically charged posts off their page, particularly if they found the posts or the person offensive and obsessed.

Is it possible to have us find a way to agree on anything going forward? If so, let’s start there and build on that. And even if you can’t find anything to agree about, at least begin to be kinder to that person next to you in the grocery line, online, or group gathered to voice their position. I ask you, dear reader, to choose something positive and constructive today as a new pattern of thought and behavior. Begin by collaborating with one of your so-called opponents for all our greater good. Remember, it does take two to tango. Find someone to dance with!

For my part, may my From the Heart byline articles coming your way in 2017 help you build that bridge and change the way you communicate and share your thoughts, frustrations, and compassion as you try to step into each other’s shoes. My hope then . . . instead of finding yourself caught in blind resistance fueled by so-called inflammatory “fake news” and “facebook frenzy” sources from both liberal and conservative camps . . . you will be found at the table in a transformative dialogue and life-affirming relationship on behalf of each other and our nation.

You may also find this article helpful, written by Pamela B. Rutledge Ph.D., M.B.A. in Psychology Today, The Healthy Use of Social Media (October 16, 2013). Rutledge offers some very useful tips for wisely integrating your life goals and social media in support of 21st century media and technological literacy competency.

When assessing your sources and commentary, her tips include knowing how to effectively search and share information, having the critical thinking skills to evaluate the quality of information, recognizing the perspectives and agendas of media creators, understanding the consequences of digital actions as an individual, such as safety and privacy, developing ethical judgment and responsible digital citizenship, both interpersonally and legally, and learning the skills that enable creativity and self-expression.

Rutledge also offers “Balance as the key” that cautions us to not use the behavior of others to determine your own. You may want to start by asking yourself “Is my social media use helping or hurting myself and others?” Once you find solid ground in your response, you just may help our news and social media world gain some much needed perspective and take the time to work on letting “fake news” and “facebook frenzies” fade away.