I have always stood by a statement of mine that I am, 100%, a by-product of the 90’s. In regards to pop-culture influences, to music tastes to overwhelming passive-aggressiveness for no justifiable reason. And Pogs™, let’s not forget those either. But perhaps one of the biggest things about the 90’s I remember are those Concerned Children’s Advertisers that played on half a dozen channels intended for audiences between the ages of 2 – 18.
You remember those commercials? “Nobody’s good at everything, but everyone’s good at something”; or “I can put my arm back on, but you can’t. So play safe”; or my personal favourite and topic of today’s article: The North American House Hippo. I remember how long it took me to come to terms with the fact that the commercial was a result of clever editing and lighting tricks, and a very convincing voice-over. After spending far too long searching my own house for traces of the House Hippo, I finally was old enough to rationalize the message behind the commercial and apply it to tv, the focus of the advertisement’s warning.
Some twenty years later, this message is just as applicable. And not only because of its limits to less than factual television programming. The lesson of “don’t believe everything you see” can be applied to very nearly every source of media we, as the Western world, absorb on a very-nearly hourly basis. Granted, this mantra needs a little updating and polishing to be more poignant.
For starters, let’s evaluate the primary message behind the House Hippo commercial. We (kids) were presented with a series of shots and explanations as to the lifestyle of the elusive House Hippo (should that be capitalized? I’m not even sure), what they eat, where they nest and all that good jazz. Then the reveal at the end that the house hippo wasn’t real, and that we should be wary of things on television. Or, at least, better informed.
Anyone whose spent more than thirty seconds on Facebook can tell you that the spreading of misinformation or, worse yet, outright lies, is a blight upon what the greater information network (aka, the internet) is supposed to be. Everyone and their political representatives have pointed fingers to every Tom, Dick and Jane for being to blame for this and youths/elders/millenials/generation-bazinga people need to read things more carefully.
Were the solution that easy, this wouldn’t be an ongoing issue.
Breaking down the reasons into the spreading of misinformation usually stems from articles/posts/claims/statements/utterances that appeal to an emotional response; knowing how to get people riled up is one of the fastest ways to get a message out there into the world at large. Is it any surprise that the articles most likely to be blatantly incorrect or misleading are often charged with rage-inducing headlines or slants? I could do it myself if I didn’t like to think of myself as an entirely passive-aggressive-ish person; this blog would very likely get many more viral views. This largely comes down to a matter of framing.
For those of you who know what framing is, you are well aware of the powerful impacts it can have on even the most benign of statements. For those who don’t: a quick Google intermission might be in order.
This is now the part where I would very likely launch into a series of inductions based on the research I have compiled about this particular topic; but as things stand, my research is actually quite narrow in this regard. I’d very much like to cite a proper experiment on this topic, but as of yet, a good example eludes me. And such, I am reeling myself in from making any sweeping statements about the phenomena.
Which, in many regards, is still a great deal better than most of these posts that are the ire of news outlets and rational thinking alike. Because of how fast everything seems to be moving at all times (especially online,) it can be very difficult to not make a wild conclusion based on the concepts and information we have at our disposal. When we do: while it is true that we will invariably see more readers for what we post, we will degrade the quality of our works by not taking that little extra time needed to verify our sources.