Misinformation Abounds In Political Commentary

Facebook is full of debate almost every time I make the poor decision to log on and start reading.

Most of the time the debates center around something that has little or no need to be discussed. But since the turn of the New Year, and even before that, the debates have all been focused around one thing.

The focus of our nation is appropriately aimed at the presidential election.

As primary voting has gotten underway and as the general election looms in the near future our focus should be on the election.

Debate is a necessary and healthy part of the democratic process and should be promoted, as it has been since the founding of our nation.

It may seem like we have continued the tradition of discussion in the pursuit of education and the finding of political common ground. However, there is something extremely discouraging and even enraging about how many in the debate choose to present their arguments.

Increasingly, no doubt due to the rise of social media, we see a different type of debate taking place.

They are not public forums, or debates in a chat box. There aren’t even one-liners in the comments feeds under political posts anymore.

Instead of discussing the matter in the way that we understand it, that would ideally lead to discussion and enlightenment on debate subjects, we see memes.

Instead of formulating our own opinions and ideas we see info graphics or illustrations that depict wildly inaccurate information that coincides with our opinions.

Instead of fact checking what is on the meme we click the “share” or “retweet” button quicker than you can say, “misinformed.”

This isn’t to say that all posts that aren’t formal discussion are bad. There is a lot of great data that gets presented in a way that makes it easier for the average voter to digest.

The problem that has arisen over the past few years is the blind belief that follows posts that are wildly inaccurate.

Instead of building counterpoints or even researching the information that would confirm our individual understanding of a certain issue, we follow and often spread information that is inaccurate. This disinformation works only to further disassociate us from the healthy democratic process that is necessary to vote in an educated and productive fashion.

If there is one thing that we can take away from this election, it is that numbers often lie when produced by a candidate or a specific campaign.

That is not always the case, but it seems to me as though there is a whole lot more inaccurate and whimsically spread data floating around on our feeds than there is credible and helpful data.

What I am urging as we head into early voting here in the state of Arkansas is that we pull our heads out of the abyss that is often our Facebook or Twitter feeds and look into why we feel the way we do about certain issues.

Surf the web and do some research.

One might be startled with how different the world appears without the lens that is social media.

It might be a step back in the right direction to the days where voters educated themselves on all sides of an issue, instead of spreading memes and posts that hold little or no truth and value.

If we have any chance we have to start now.

Originally published in the Feb. 17, 2016 print edition of The Echo

image via www.gizmodo.com

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