Social media is making us dumber!

Photo by Pixabay

It’s easier than ever to spread information, there are countless platforms to share your ideas, your photos, your thoughts, your beliefs and your disbeliefs. Your life.

The dictionary tells us that “information” is “facts provided or learned about something or someone“. The problem in this definition is the word provided. Anyone can provide stories, delusions or anything else, the receptor won’t know whether it is true or not.

An information only becomes fake if someone knows the truth. An information is only true if you can’t prove it’s fake.

Have you ever thought about it?

I saw a dinosaur today.

Photo by rawpixel.com

Would you believe that? Probably yes. The information is so vague you will start doing all kinds of conjectures. “On TV”; “A Fossil”; “In a book”; “A toy”.

All the places where I’m able to see dinosaurs without looking crazy. Of course if I complete the information you will get a better understanding, and based on what you know you will form your opinion.

I saw a real dinosaur while I was walking my dog.

What about this? Would you believe it?

Probably yes. The information isn’t so vague anymore. Now your conjectures start to change from the earlier ones. “It was a disguised person”; “Maybe he saw a big animal and mistook it for a dinosaur”; “He was probably high”; “I’m sure he saw a chicken, and he’s calling it a dinosaur”. All of these are valid for a person that supposedly saw a real dinosaur while walking the dog.

Photo by Achim Bongard

What does this tell you? When in doubt, human minds tend to find logical explanations to what they are listening to, it’s the only way to keep conversations going. Of course later on you will counter argument but, in your head the first thing you do is question everything and extract some parts while adding others so the story makes sense. Either that or you immediately think, “Ok, this guy is a fool”, for some reason my head defaults to this one a lot! I just stop listening when I hear a lot of jibberish nonsense jibba jabba.

So what does this all mean? It means that our default most of the times is the “I want to believe” (Not X-Files related) and this, this is the problem.

With tons of information pretty much everywhere it’s hard to filter what’s real and what’s not. Even with videos it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish the reality from CGI (have you ever heard of deepfake? – we will get there in a future post). It’s basically up to us to believe what we see, hear (and soon what we feel) based on our own ideologies, common sense, knowledge, past history and experiences.

Image from meenas17.com

But what if I didn’t have any of these? How can I filter out what information is relevant and what information is not? What if I’m a kid that is still learning with hardly no past experience and no knowledge?
Then the first thing I do is believe, that’s what innocence is. I take for granted that what I was told is completely true. I can only doubt something if it doesn’t match what my mind has stored as correct or logical.

The new generation was born with Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, that should be an awesome time to be a kid right? Not really. With the rise of these platforms and their audience reaching new proportions every single day, there is also a lot of content that is unnecessary, fake, not well-formed or delusional.

Let’s consider a real example. The flat-earth theory. It’s getting a bigger and bigger adoption and the supporters range from famous people to regular folks, why?

Map created by John Krygier at Making Maps

Is the fake information so well produced that it’s believable? Are the receptors not educated enough to think for their own? Are they so formatted to believe what they listen that they instantly believe it? Or most of their past experience is believing what the social media says?

I think it’s all of the above. The fake information is getting better and better. A couple of years ago you could tell a video was fake because there was no effort for it. Someone wanted to spread some rumours, so they did a home video with sketchy and pixelated letters and it was done. The explanation was usually short, sometimes illogical and the quality was pretty bad.

Today you get awesome dissertations with all sorts of spectacular graphics, infographics and designs. The FakeSpreaders (FS) aren’t afraid to show their face anymore, their relatives faces, their home. They share everything and point out to other people that also said the same thing, other articles online, blogs and videos, most of them from other FS’s. It’s a never ending loop. All of this makes their story more believable, they connect with their audience.

But is it just that? Are these FS’s so good that they can make other people believe in what they are spreading?

No, the biggest problem is that each and every FS himself believes it as well!

If I’m telling something about Earth using all sorts of fancy words it really looks like I know what I’m saying. If on top of it I know for a fact that it is the truth, I won’t shiver, I won’t stutter, I will say it with all the confidence in the world and look awesome when I do it. I can either sound like a lunatic or a genius. People will be astonished. “Wow, this guy really knows about it”.

So who are the flat-earthers?

According to a survey made by YouGov only 66% of millenials believe the earth is round.

Survey from yougov.com

What have you noticed with the results above?
Something?
Nothing?
Everything and a Pair of Boots? 🙂

The incredible and curious thing about the results above is the acceptance that the earth is round decreases with age…that’s awesome to look at but really frightening at the same time.

So is social media making us dumber? Yes. Yes it is! Will it makes even dumber? Yes. Yes it will. Unless there’s a huge change in how people relate to the world and the internet, we as human beings, the humanity in it’s whole is losing knowledge. Incredibly some of this knowledge we already took for granted, it was obvious and didn’t even make sense to doubt.

My take on it is that the younger generation was born with all of this information (fake and real) already disseminated everywhere. It’s not their fault. However it’s up to us to prove them wrong, otherwise our future might be doomed. What happens if a flat earther gets into NASA and works in designing/programming satellites? Their calculations will be obviously wrong and will lead to disasters. This might happen in every industry and we are part of it. We must stop all this fake info nonsense and educate the new generation to be sceptical!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not old, I grew up with computers and internet, kazaa, emule and what not, I can also be considered to be part of the “young generation” by older people, however I’m not easily convinced and I want to make a change. We all should!

Let’s not let our round world go in the same path as the Idiocracy movie.

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JAB

JAB - Short for Just Another Blogger

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