Reading on line: Who knows what’s real anymore?

We all know what we’re reading on line – but that’s not the point. Today the point is that we have no idea how much of what we’re reading is true, and how much is ‘alternative facts’ or ‘fake news’.

There’s no telling how many times our online reading has allowed us to fall through the thin ice of truth into the deep and chilling waters of half-truths and downright fiction.

But that’s the trouble with the thickness of ice. It’s almost impossible to establish, simply by looking, as we navigate our way through the modern era of ‘fake news’, just how substantial it is.

No longer can we find clues to the veracity of what’s been written in the name of the author. In fact, we can rest assured that most of what we’re reading has been written through the prism of someone else’s perceived reality, for a stake has been driven through the heart of objectivity.

Now that’s not necessarily a problem if the reader can take in that concept – but to many readers don’t have that ability. That’s the source of the phrase ‘it must be true; I read it in the paper’. Today the phrase can be changed to things seen on TV once-trusted broadcasters, or, much worse, read on line.

On line is the preserve of anti-social media, where everyone has an opinion, and is happy to voice it in a heartbeat. That’s what fills cyberspace. The people who are saying ‘hang on a minute…’ aren’t pecking away furiously at their keyboards, adding to the ill-informed cacophony like shouts in a school playground at lunchtime.

The irony is that the truth IS out there. It just takes some effort to find it, and base an opinion on the reality. Take Brexit as an example (and we’re on neither side here, let’s make that completely clear).

However, how many people understand, really understand, what the ‘WTO’ in WTO rules stands for, let alone actually means? How many are against ‘immigration’, but will happily have a plasterer from Poland sort out their kitchen, or a doctor from Sri Lanka cure their ailment?

And yet how many of those people have shared their opinions, based on nothing very much at all in the way of actual evidence, with the world at large?

All of this ‘instant opinion’ allows for little in the way of balance. Too much comes down as a bald ‘yes’ or ‘no’, a black and white with no room for shades of grey in the middle. That has a polarising effect in the population. We’ve seen it in the UK over Brexit and the Scottish independence referendum; we’ve seen it in America with the election and subsequent administration of the polarising President. In neither place has it got much to do with what’s best for the nation, for views seem to be based on the view of ‘me first, nation second, and if you’re not with me, you’re wrong’.

Isn’t it sad that it’s come to this? Whatever happened to tolerance and consensus? In a world where we have taught so many people how to read, and given them the power to become publishers, isn’t it sad that we haven’t also taught them how to think for themselves? There’s something to think about the next time you’re reading on line…

Shown them stuff, need to tech them how to think.

Picture: Wenling01 | Dreamstime