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Did that catch your attention? What about:
Here’s What Happened When Six Corgi Puppies Visited a College Campus
There’s a word for headlines like that. It’s called clickbait. There are far more sensational ones. Clickbait is exactly what the word says; it baits you to click on a story; its goal is not accuracy. After all the sites are paid for by advertising. And advertising is sold by the number of clicks each site can get on a story.
BREAKING: Julian Assange Could Be Dead! What Just Happened Has Everyone Freaking Out!
What about this by a website that calls itself USA Politics Today? This was about the WikiLeaks leader and was posted and reposted on facebook and tweeted and retweeted.
We are no longer just dealing with clickbait. There are fake news websites galore, all with legitimate-sounding names. Here are a few: The Borowitz Report, The Daily Currant and Global Associated News. And as if that is not confusing enough, fake news sometimes fakes legitimate news outlets like MSNBC.co. I once saw on Facebook a story that had purportedly come from ABC News. I went to the website and it kind of looked like the real thing. But it wasn’t.
We might imagine that perhaps only oldies who have little understanding of social media get fooled. But I think the reverse is true. Oldies tend to stick to sources they know. And they are less likely to repost or retweet something they see. Gen Yers and Millennials on the other hand seem to think they should share first, check later.
Granted this is anecdotal. I know of no statistical research on this, but more than half of my FB friends are actually Gen Yers or Millennials (more Millennials) and my son’s social media friends are mostly Millennials, and this is what we have observed. Sometimes I read heated discussions that run for a day or two, before someone finally notices the news is fake.
Even more ironic is that while we live in a time in which it is hard, if not impossible, to completely black out information and where access is so easily available, each person may have to work harder at finding the truth. Each person is now his or her own fact checker. And given the amount of information out there, it would be too exhausting.
And with technology being what it is, it is even possible to fake videos, giving the impression that a person is saying something he never said.
Which brings us back to the old adage: Don’t believe everything you hear. And we can add, Or everything you see. Or read. Is something true because it had been reposted a thousand times? Or retweeted 10,000 times? Or is a topic valuable because it was the number one trending topic in Singapore? Or in the US? Or in the world?
Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” What indeed.
And who can we trust to tell us the truth? It is perhaps not surprising that the explosion of clickbait sites and fake news sites came at a time where trust of the traditional mass media fell to an all-time low − in the US only 26 percent of those aged 18-49 say they trust the mass media. So social media trumps mass media and things that are posted on social media are often not fact-checked. After all, social media are media as circulated by peers and not some greedy business.
We must repair that breach of trust. Maybe the situation is not as bad as in the US. But the ease of social media is creating a generation of globalists in more ways than one. And it is in this environment that we are to train a generation that is discerning without being cynical.
In a recent article on Halloween, I asked if it represented an attempt to make the macabre fun and so discredit the reality of real evil and of the demonic. Here, I wonder if the explosion of fake sites and clickbaits are meant to create a generation who cannot believe there is truth to be had. Truth that frees. Truth that is embodied. In a Person.
Tell me what you think. And if you have ideas on the social media and its implications, please visit our Facebook Impact page and tell us what you think. Use social media to help us help one another make a new generation who knows “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to His saints.” And that is no clickbait.
Life was simpler for Mary Yeo Carpenter when she was a young adult. Then there were only a couple of satirical papers like The Onion and few thought the articles in them were real news. (Send us your thoughts, ideas and critiques. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: www.facebook.com/findingyourfaith)