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Friday, August 17, 2012

Be a better idea shopper

It's safe to say I love the internet. For at least twelve years, it's been an integral part of my daily life.  I've used the internet to build new relationships and to maintain old ones.  I can give credit to the web for my trip planning expertise. I would not be writing fiction or a blog (obviously) today if it weren't for the various communities I've encountered.  I quite literally can't imagine my life without a search engine or a social network.

I also hate the internet for what it has done to public discourse and human dialogue.  I suppose it's not fair to blame the internet—it's really people who are the problem.  Fallacies and public lies aren't new in politics or relationship.  It's just much faster to disseminate them now.  Plus, it's easier for more people to engage in the discussion.  The internet has been called the great democratizer, giving everyone access to the same information, giving everyone a voice. Unfortunately, in this great marketplace of ideas, there is no money back guarantee for crappy ideas or harmful voices.

I think I'm going to settle into this topic for a while.  I know it's a departure from my usual posts, but I can't help myself.  I am a communication professor, after all.  I plan to do a some analyzing of various stupidity I see on the internet and to offer some advice as I go. 
Obviously, the issue is a bigger during a Presidential election year, but the problem isn't contained to politics.  Today, I'm not going to get into any specific issues, but I am just going to say this:

Work harder to verify all information.  Before you "share" a picture or a political quote demonizing the other side, make sure it's true.  Before your respond in a debate, check your facts  with non-partisan sources. Heck, I spend hours researching what kind of moisturizer to buy, and I compare labels on boxes of cereal in the grocery store.  Why not do the same when idea shopping?
Websites such as Politifact and comb through substantial amounts of information.  Yes, you will find that you may be wrong about some things or that your preferred candidate has been taken out of context.  You may even that people on your own side have lied or misled folks.  

But thanks to the same internet that spread the lies in the first place, with a quick click of the mouse, you can know better.  If you know better, you can do better. I implore you to do better.

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