SHOCKING TRUTHS ABOUT THE INTERNET THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW // MARK HATTORI

What you don’t know will surprise you! Click to read more!

Recently, my Facebook feed has been having more and more links to these dumb articles that are supposed to tell me these “shocking, unknown facts”, when in reality, they’re really common knowledge. These posts use sensationalized titles to shock the reader, and get them interested in reading the article. While not as extreme, social media has a similar way of eliciting reaction from users online through spreading information that may not necessarily be true.

In my CTW (Critical Thinking and Writing) class, one of the first books that we read was The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan theorized about the future of communication and predicted the rise of the internet. One prominent idea in his book was the idea of how technology and information are connected. Information is powerful, and through the internet, and more specifically social media, information can be spread faster than ever.

(http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/business/2011/07/medium-is-massage_ic.gif)

However, this information is not always necessarily true. Many times, information online is distorted or misleading. For example, in 2009, when Twitter was in its infancy, the H1N1 scare was being reported on by the news media. “Many people on Twitter spread panic and misinformation about the virus. While media reports highlighted these negative aspects, scientists and science journalists were sharing links to more accurate and useful information” (Ben Ari). The news media turned to the panic online and reported on the hysteria online, which caused more panic among viewers.

This cycle of spreading panic and false information happened back in 1999, in another case we studied in class. A main focus of the second quarter of class was on the Columbine shooting. One interesting aspect of the incident was how students that were giving information on the killers, Eric Harris, and Dylan Klebold, that was false, but ultimately was reported on by the news. The students saw the two boys wearing trench coats during the killing spree, and assumed that the boys were part of the Trench Coat Mafia, a group that many in the town associated with being “goths, gays, outcasts, and a street gang” (Cullen, 72). Because this assumption was reported on the news, many people saw this and the Trench Coat Mafia became affiliated with the shooting, though this was far from the truth. “Kids ‘knew’ the TCM (Trench Coat Mafia) was involved because witnesses and news anchors had said so on TV” (Cullen, 150).

(http://i115.photobucket.com/albums/n296/f34rz4ndi/TrenchcoatMafia.gif)

In both cases, misinformation was spread because the people that were spreading the information were not qualified to be speaking on the subject. Ultimately, this is the problem that the internet presents nowadays. Because the internet is available for all to use, anyone is free to post their thoughts and beliefs online. However, while this in itself is not bad, the problem arises when these unconfirmed thoughts and beliefs are presented as fact. One thing we talked about in class is “earning” the right to be able to write on a subject. The only way that we could do that was by doing enough research on a topic to be able to be confident that we know what we are writing about, and many times online, this is not the case.

Through this class, one thing that I have definitely gained respect for, is the fact that writers do years and years of research before writing their work. For example, in Columbine, the main book we read about the shooting, the author, Dave Cullen, research the topic for over nine years before writing his book. Similarly, in Eating Animals, the main book we read during the first quarter, the author, Jonathan Safran Foer, spent years gathering information on America’s factory farm system, even going undercover when investigating.

These examples of research is a staunch contrast to much of the information online. With the speed that information is spread, there is pressure on people to release information just for the sake of being the first ones to break information, even if it may not be true. Ultimately, the internet will not be changing anytime soon, and it is up to users to be aware that not all information on the internet is credible. But don’t take my word for it.

Works Cited:

Ben-Ari, Elia. “Twitter: What’s All the Chirping About?” BioScience 59.7 (2009): 632. Web.

Cullen, David. Columbine. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.

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