Image source: wfsj.org
Social media has become the primary source of information for the vast majority of people connected to the internet. Gone are the days of published articles and National Geographic programs and magazines, and now is the time of flash articles. Information has taken a turn for the worse and every day thousands and thousands of articles are being shared simply because of a flashy headline. In this article however, I would like to break down and explain why this is a problem for modern society.
I want to address reasons for shocking articles, the first being Website traffic. Articles are written with such tact that they’re baiting the viewer to click the headline; tabloids if you will. These articles can target select groups of people, their interest, their feelings, generate shares, and to increase website traffic and revenue from ads. This approach is called “clickbait.” You rarely find these articles at any dignified news source and worse yet, they’re often filled with tons of bold claims but little to no citation to support them.
Articles can also be written to target our beliefs or attempt to create a new belief where there wasn’t one previously. The problem with tact is that it spreads misinformation which people take hold as beliefs. This is damaging to our species overall intelligence and safety. The now classic case of bogus information being shared is in the case of Autism and Vaccines. A single researcher came out with erroneous information which could not be duplicated by themselves or any other scientists, yet, people ran with this information. It was rapidly shared across the internet and soon a new paradigm was born as there are now groups of people who vehemently believe vaccines cause autism and hold to these believes without any scientific proof and it’s caused diseases previously eradicated in the Western world to return.
Another problem comes in the form of memes. Memes are simple images with words on them which are entirely designed to be shared due to their ease. In science you will find most people share things such a picture of a nebula with the hashtag, #science, but it won’t actually have any information or be related to the process of science. In other cases, they can have an entire doctrine attempting to subtly convince the viewer of a particular goal. Examples of that could range from “Why should shouldn’t eat meat,” “Why SeaWorld is evil,” or “How to get better gas mileage,” they can literally be based on anything. We have reached that point today where I think we’ve all heard one of our friends some something really dumb, and if you ask where they heard that something, sometimes it’ll be from a meme on Facebook. Snopes.com is a great place to check facts on any fantastic claims by a meme.
There are ways to combat this newfound spread of ignorance, and that is by each and every educated person, promoting a new paradigm shift in how we address tabloid science. You yourself can help by actively checking for sources before posting that article about cancer, marijuana, or whatever else is may be hot and trendy. Remember they’re after your clicks, not out to educate you. It is up to us to call out, educate, and demonize misinformation and click bait articles. We are in the modern age and mass information is now spread through social media, there’s no reason it needs to be cheapened down to a tabloid.
I want to highlight next a few articles which demonstrate misinformation designed for clicks. This will begin my weekly updates which I will now call Misinformed Mondays, where I find a popular article or two and walk through why it’s junk.
The first is an article I have seen more than once shared by my peers. The first clue that something is wrong here is that the headline is treating science like a person. “Science Say’s…” The next clue that you may be sharing bullshit, is that the scientific article is on a businessinsider.com. Business Insider is not a credible scientific news website. Lastly, any article you see with a top # list will be hogwash. This my friends, is an article designed to bring you in for a sweet and savory click by a lady with a shit-eating grin.