As many of you know, I took a little break from Facebook for a little while. I think this election just really got the better of many of us. I liked the way Stephen Colbert put it on the night of the election, "maybe we all drank a little bit too much of the poison." So I needed to step away.
A big piece of what's been happening to make Facebook and other social media sites unbearable for me has been the tidal wave of fake news stories. It doesn't much seem to matter what you believe, chances are you will be able to find a website somewhere that looks legit that backs you up, even if said website has absolutely no basis in actual reality. Reality as it turns out has little to do with the political process any more. If you can quote someone else who believes something that might even a little bit resemble what you believe, apparently that's news. Facebook has been spending some time trying to figure out what role they can play in limiting or eliminating these fake stories, but that's a tricky path to walk for a company that prides itself on a lack of censorship.
At the same time this fake news is happening, newspapers all across the country are shutting their doors and laying off their staffs. The actual journalists, the ones who in local communities seek to bring us the news of the day are actually becoming an endangered species. Why, after all, would you pay for news when you can get it for free on the internet? We've become spoiled, and it may actually be harmful to our democracy. There is nothing more important in a representative government than a well educated electorate, and whatever your opinions of this last election are I think we can all agree we failed the education test.
I find myself hungry for truth, and that's sad because all that seems to be out there is spin. I badly want to see what's really happening in the world, but all I seem to get is people's opinions. And those opinions are only becoming hardening concrete around the echo chamber of social media, where fake news is allowed to go unchecked. Who cares if you're right, just as long as you're popular? We can do better.
So my encouragement to everyone is to dig deeper than you feel like you should. If you are a liberal, watch Fox news every now and again. If you're a conservative, check out MSNBC. Don't do it just to make fun of the other side either, actually listen. Actually pay attention. Maybe the facts and figures your side produces aren't based in reality. Or maybe a fresh perspective would help you understand them better. Maybe nothing will change in your opinion at all, and that's perfectly fine. But at least now you're educated. At least not you're standing in a somewhat more truthful position. Be careful of what you read on Facebook. Ask the question on every page whether or not the news you are reading comes from a reputable source. Maybe even start asking what reputable sources means. Whatever we do, as a nation we need to be more about the truth. A wise many once said that it would set us free.