Adopting Skepticism Towards Social Media

Prior to the massive emergence of the social media, the task of preparation and edition of news used to be performed by the members of press, whom we believed to be well-educated on the matter. Thus, I think, we can believe that a certain code ethic of journalism must have already been established on the basis of the experiences of doyen journalists. I must remark, nonetheless, that I have never witnessed that an event, in which I or my friends or family have been somehow involved, being covered by the press on the basis of its facts and such facts only.

The emergence of the social media has become a brand new page for the industry. Nowadays, we often encounter posts of pseudo-news nature (i.e. posts that are purported to be news pieces even though they, in fact, lack such quality) on Facebook. Even though the social media boom seems to be an inevitable result of the spread of the Internet; the phenomenon is also contributed by the popular opinion that the conventional media is not sufficiently free. I, for one, can state that the time I spend to watch TV and read the newspapers has considerably diminished.

Social Media: A form of human interaction based mainly on sharing and discussions without time and location restrictions (mobile-based). Social media has also led to the emergence of the concepts of “User-Created Content” and “Customer-Created Media”

Imagine that a news story is presented in both in the newspapers and on Facebook at the same time but in different forms. “Which one would you believe” and “Which one should you believe?”. I, now, have difficulty in believing the newspapers as we all know that money is a restraining factor for a profit-maximizing business. To put it in brief, knowing that a piece of information originates from a sources that inherently pursues economic interest from believing such information. On the other hand, I find it challenging to suggest an answer for the question, “Which one should I believe”. Because the pseudo-news photograph posted and shared on Facebook indifferently and inconsiderately concern me deeply, sometimes. Even though it is the users themselves, who determine with whom they share information; I cannot help not having suspicion as to whether or not we are able to make sound inquiries under the vast under the shower of information, to which we are inevitably exposed.

I would like to mention about a photograph, which has recently been shared on Facebook, and which I do not want to post here. The photo depicts a child lying on the street with blood seeping out of his mouth. A heartbreaking scene. Under the photograph is a statement that suggests that it was taken in Palestine and is a doing of Israel. I would like to stress at this point that I stand against any type and kind of cruelty and atrocity by and toward any human-being, and that I do acknowledge it as a fact that Israel has been acting violently and cruelly. It wounds me deeply when especially children lose their lives in such occasions. For all that; when I see a photograph such as the one I mentioned above, I cannot help not asking certain questions in my mind such as:

  1. Has the photograph really been taken in Palestine? In which part of Palestine, exactly? Because, it could have been taken in another part of the world, where a similar event of atrocity is taking place.
  2. Is that child on the photograph a Palestinian? What’s his name and what’s his story?
  3. Was the photograph really taken during the recent Israeli attack on Palestine? Or is it an image of a past attack and has it been pulled from the archive? On what date exactly was it taken?
  4. Who has taken that photograph?
  5. Is it a true, accurate and intact photograph? Or could it be an instrument of disinformation?

Disinformation is a piece of information, which has not been confirmed to be true and correct, and is disseminated intentionally

5Ws and 1 H: The term journalism involves asking the questions “what? when? where? why? who? and how?”, the answers to which form the essential elements of a news piece. Currently, the foregoing questions are supplemented by the question “from Whom” at faculties of communication and certain books on journalism, and the formula is set as 6Ws and 1H.

The post featuring the aforementioned photograph fails to answer the most of the key questions. And in the case of those answered, the answers are rather incredible since the origin of the photograph is unknown. Had the post been prepared and edited as a proper news piece, I would be able to obtain the information that would have been laid by the answers to the key questions. So, in this case, could that post be characterized as a new piece? Does preparation and edition of a news story require a certain education and ethical approach? Could anyone go ahead and mold public opinion on social media, putting together a news piece based on a convincing video or image? Is this a strength or a weakness for the social media?

As Arthur Schopenhauer once put it; one should be skeptical about any information without regards to the its origin or means of communication. One thing that we need to pay particular attention is that we tend to believe the accuracy of a piece of information to a further extent if it seems to be supporting what we already believe to be true. Thus, there should always be a room for skepticism in place as it has for centuries even a century later not matter to what technologically advanced form media may then gain.

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