HAVE you ever read a Facebook post and found yourself scrolling tirelessly through the comments to get all the juicy details?
If there is one thing social media is good at, it is providing all sides of any given issue – and as long as no-one is being bullied, blamed or publicly humiliated, reading about conflicting stories or opinions is not necessarily a bad thing.
It can be the fastest way to get updates during severe weather events or traffic incidents but when you are inclined to skim over the original story and skip straight to the arguments it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff.
And if you read a Facebook post the same way you would read a news story, you will more often than not be taking on information from a decidedly dodgy source.
Of course the journalistic approach might come across as dry and boring – after all, we are simply charged with reporting the facts without personal opinion, fabrication or speculation.
Given that mainstream media does not generally provide unverified news about people with loose morals, shady pasts or criminal tendencies, it is understandable that social media posts are often more thrilling to read.
“Dog bites man” could easily go viral with a comment or two from the neighbour who happens to know that the victim was a crazy who got his jollies after rolling around in wet dog food. Or that the dog in question was an old hound with no teeth who was in fact the target of a council animal management conspiracy.
They say truth is stranger than fiction and that may have even been true before social media came into existence.
Psychologists have been studying the impact of social media and while they have discovered that it provides more opportunity for social connection, it also has a dark side.
We all want to feel part of a group and we all want to feel we have something to contribute to the conversation. Even when we do not.
Scientists recently looked into what it is that makes us click that “Like” button on social media and they found that some people do not even read the posts they endorse.
Many respond automatically according to the number of smiley faces, hearts and other cute emojis on any given post.
Facebook comments might be more entertaining than a gossip session at lunch break but it is not reliable news.
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