Attention is a natural thing people crave. It’s why we share photos, posts, other information on social media. We want people to know about us, even if they don’t want to. Not only do we crave that attention but so do companies. Our attention is mostly directed to our phones and computers. For the generation before, they were mostly directed towards the television. The shift in the mediums has changed drastically. There’s no telling where we will be looking at next.
Who has the power?
Power is who has our attention. May it be apps, articles or people. While it is said that we vote with our dollar, the same can be said with our attention. In the perspective of a company, it’s where the money is. If everyone is focused on some specific thing, there’s a company thats finding a way to profit from it. Sites like YouTube found new ways to incorporate capital gains into the content. Companies will sponsor content and pay for the expenses needed to make videos. They may even send our promotional products to contributors that have large followings. This is a clever tactic. It’s allows them to feed us their products aside from traditional ads and commercials. As a society, we are driving the demand for such things. Companies are seemingly getting better at making us think that it was our idea all along.
Social Media and Empowerment
Social media has empowered people to take matters into their own hands. It allows us to bring attention to matters that might have gone unnoticed. These tools might not have been intended for this. I doubt twitter was ever actively seeking to become apart of a social revolution. Instances such as the Flint Water Crisis or the Dakota Access Pipeline have created this following that would be hard to reach without social media. It gained so much exposure that people were forced to confront the issues. There was no way of hiding it now that millions of people were apart of the following.
Attention vs Acceptance
Another thing we crave more than attention is acceptance. We like to know we belong. It’s part of us to want to be apart of a group. In the Attention Economy, they’re using it against us. This dependency of acceptance makes us conform the the majority. If other people feel so passionately, then so should I! It’s with this herd mentality that we’re giving them exactly what they want. We feel so compelled to feel apart of something that we get sucked up into something more without knowing it. Is it right that we forgo our individuality for acceptance?
In the digital age, we’re exposed to a wealth of knowledge that is more than we ever imagined. Information is seemingly endless. With this endless stream of information, there’s bound to be some loose ends. We can’t always trust what we read on the internet. It’s also not likely that this is the first time you’re hearing this. It’s easy to just type whatever is on your mind into Google. Your search results come in the matter of seconds. Typically, we define false information as misinformation. Misinformation may be the result of poor education on a subject. While deliberately falsifying information to sway opinion is the intent of disinformation.
How does this happen?
Disinformation can be easily disguised through social networking channels like facebook or twitter. Articles or even other blogs are able to spread the information. There’s even an interactive map of how disinformation spreads via social network.
The popular choice of weapon is BOTS! These crafty fellows were created to decive, but there are typical signs to spot them out.
These accounts can spring up at anytime. Few times people create an account to just discuss the matter, and only talk about the one subject.
It’s a lot easier to steal the information rather than creating it themselves.
- Interesting account names
These account names are sometimes mixes of letters and numbers after a real name or celebrity name.
Keeping yourself on top
It’s important that we get the right information -even when we have to take action in our own hands. Fact checking is a great way to test the waters yourself.
Consider the Four Moves from WEB LITERACY FOR STUDENT FACT-CHECKERS
- Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.
- Go upstream to the source: Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.
- Read laterally: Read laterally. Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.
- Circle back: If you get lost, or hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.
This is just small sample of what we can do to avoid the spread of false information, intentional or not.
Have any other tips? Comment below!