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The age of online misinformation, conspiracy theories & echo chambers


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Where's the line between questioning the consensus and creating a world of paranoid mistrust?

The promotion of conspiracy theories and spread of misinformation is an inevitable consequence of the internet (I naively believed the internet would be a force for consensus and collective knowledge, but them human nature got in the way...), and I'm wondering if we're heading toward a future where information and evidence are of no particular value to many people, and they're just looking for a narrative that suits their world view, then creating and spreading misinformation to back their views up?

Political and media spin have been with us since the dawn of politics and the media but personally I don't know why 'the person on the street' would just casually make stuff up and circulate it on the internet. I'm sure they have their motives. 

What do you folks think? Have we come out the other side of the age of reason and science, and into the age of perpetual misinformation?

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The "age of misinformation" has been with us for decades (probably even longer).  Chamberlain's "peace in our time" and Harold Wilson's "pound in your pocket" claims are examples.  I guess there are very many others.

It's just that the internet has made it possible for everybody(?) to air various crackpot(?) theories etc., not just a select few.  I guess that everybody is wanting their "15 minutes of fame"...

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Indeed. I've been involved in some online discussions that are basically people Googling whatever the subject is and posting links back and forth to each other without actually reading or digesting the information.

When I were a lad.... books and articles were read, experienced people were listened to, thoughts were pondered and some clarity was reached before mouths were opened. Now folk seem happy to find the first article they feel backs their point up and post that saying "see..." whilst believing that to be research.

I wonder if, in the age of information, we are losing our abilities to process the information in a meaningful way?

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I think that the biggest problem is some kind of information overload.  Far to much is available at the press of a button, and far to many conflicting opinions on it's accuracy.

It's way to easy to find an opinion that matches 'your' version of the 'facts'.  People just don't think anymore.

There is also an attitude that says "if google says so..." then it must be true.  Trouble is tha google is far to powerful in this respect and can ALWAYS find an opinion that you are comfortable with.

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13 hours ago, Davie P said:

I wonder if, in the age of information, we are losing our abilities to process the information in a meaningful way?

Are we losing our abilities to process the information in a meaningful way, or have we become lazier than ever before and now are willing to swallow whatever we're fed?

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On 13/10/2021 at 17:52, Davie P said:

I wonder if, in the age of information, we are losing our abilities to process the information in a meaningful way?

Losing them, don't think so, or not quite yet anyway. Being too 'lazy' to bother with processing it, for many, it would appear so. After all, we've long been conditioned to 'want' instant gratification. Why bake a cake when you can buy one something similar ready to go off a supermarket shelf for probably less than the actual raw ingredient and baking costs of a DIY one. If Google can present you with an opinion you are able to live with for free, no point in wasting the time and energy yourself when someone else has already done it.

Its a little insane for sure, but I think most people who do it, do so without really realising its happening. In a way its no surprise though, given that for at least half a century traditional media has spent up to five times longer telling its audience what their opinion should be of the news than they have on telling the news itself.

There are still those who prefer to think for themselves yet though, but the problem there is definitely a form of information overload. When you're faced with the whole plethora of differing and often contradictory 'facts' and opinions on any one given subject that are readily accessible almost at a moments notice, but with a dearth of verification for any of it, anyone who wants to think for themselves is left with little option but remain highly sceptical of the damn lot of it. Which is a pity, as although there's far more 'information' available to everyone than ever has been before, its of less use than when there was much less of it about, and we know considerably less as a result.

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It has, in my opinion, come to an interesting stage now. The surge in "like based" social media has, in my opinion, fixed a lot of the issues (bear with me!). It is now FAR easier to spot those who haven't actually given anything any thought :

They will literally repost something someone else has written, which got to the top of thier feed because it was liked by similar minded people, which will cause thier post to be liked by the same people, thus they spiral off into a delusion that the majority of people think the same as them and it is therefore fact and everything else is wrong.

They will write something themself, often vague, then start adding links which are actually google search results they may not even have read.

I find combining these makes it dead easy to filter out a large amount of drivel. You can also happily ignore facebook etc, as thats just stoness from top to bottom. 

The most unfortunate thing is the way some local news media seem to have decided to behave like facebook ranters, especially recently.

 

But ignore that and stick to forums like Shetlink and you can still have meaninful debates with relatively sane people ;)

There are lots of good, sound, resources out there. Nothing fancy, but take for example things like planning applications. They are all there, with all related documents, for all to see. There are still facts out there. And as long as we stick to them, our differing opinions are all valid.

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23 minutes ago, Spinner72 said:

There are lots of good, sound, resources out there. Nothing fancy, but take for example things like planning applications. They are all there, with all related documents, for all to see. There are still facts out there. And as long as we stick to them, our differing opinions are all valid.

Certainly the more local the issue, the better the quality of information and debate that can be had.

Its the stuff where you have little knowledge of the issue, locality or who are or aren't the more reliable sources of info that thing get rapidly more murky. Classic example, the BLM 'riots' the other side of the pond a bit back, mainstream media was describing them as 'largely peaceful protests' at the same time as numerous photos of 'rioters' silhouetted against blazing vehicles and whole streets of smashed shop windows and looted shops were being posted on other sites. Ummmmm.........  Either there were an awful lot of fake photos, or if that was mainstream media definition of 'largely peaceful', I'd not be keen to meet their definition of 'largely violent'.

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The strangest phenomenon is people ignoring their own eyes and ears, I’m not talking about reading it online or hearing it on the news, I mean first hand experience. The “Covid’s fake” and “Brexit’s great” people are the most baffling to me. They must live in bubbles listening to conspiracy theorists on youtube.;)

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I find da whole conspiracy theory business to be interestin. No for da theories demsel, but I winder what it is dat drives some folk tae be so paranoid tae belive dat aabody is lying tae aabody else.

Yis, dirs plenty o examples when folk hiv indeed been lied to, but no aabody, aa da time, tae aabody else!

It seems tae be a mindset rather den onything else, and you canna seem to discuss onything we determined conspiracy theorists because quantifiable evidence doesna hold ony value, and dey'll use wan evidence-less theory as evidence for anidder een! Dey'll claim dey've done dir research, but da research is often joost readin dubious internet articles.

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