(Article by Linda Andress) With every step, click, and tap people make on social media, they are faced with information about virtually everything happening in the world from various sources. While it is guaranteed to get news about a trending topic, news sources’ reliability, more often than not, leaves little to be desired. Therefore, social media users are left with the option of choosing what to believe and what not to.
Life would have been so easy if all people had to believe the truth and discard the false news, but reality doesn’t present just these two options. Due to the modern craving for engagements, readers, viewers, and renown, in place of selling the truth just as it is, the public is fed with the ‘truth’ they want to hear. This is where the concept of truthiness comes in.
The term ‘Truthiness’ was coined by American TV comedian and satirist Stephen Colbert on his satirical program on politics – The Colbert Show, in October 2005. He assigned its meaning to the notion that news is true based on people’s perceptions and not on facts or proper evidence.
We live in a world where all are entitled to their own opinions and expression, so it is more difficult to draw the line between what is real and what is not. The reality of Colbert’s satirical analysis of modern-day journalism hit home so accurately that by the end of that year, ‘truthiness’ was selected as the Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society and by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary the following year.
A popular route towards truthiness has a preferred conclusion already, then working one’s way through the facts to back it up. Virtually all reporting parties are guilty of this selective bias, which is an entirely truthful system, should instead be to work through the facts to conclude.
This anomaly has conditioned the general public to resort to getting information from sources that suit their convictions and ideal truth. To buttress this, it is widely common for republicans to read stories and get information solely from Fox News compared to NPR or CNN. The reverse is also the case for democrats.
When various media houses are reporting contradicting facts on the same topic, it begs the question, which source gives the actual truth and can be trusted. But instead of people finding the answer to this question, they conclude that it has to be where they’re being told what they want to hear.
Adding a Little Truthiness Won’t Hurt Anyone.
Since it is easier to appeal to an audience that relates to what is fed to them, social media today has become a tool for validating feelings. As well as news bodies, users are well aware of this and exploit the situation to their advantage. So, every story that doesn’t fit into their particular schedule is tweaked until it does. After all, that’s what the public needs. Or is it? No!
An instance where truthiness got the better of people was back in 2019 when Beyonce was said to have walked out of a meeting with Reebok because the team she was to work with lacked diversity. This was easy to believe and an appealing agenda to push, knowing Beyonce could very well do something like that. The news was accepted as fact before Reebok debunked the claims and stated them as untrue.
A viral post of the death of Will and Jaden Smith was also circulated on Facebook that same year, with the report claiming that they were involved in a fatal accident. People shared relentlessly without confirming if the supposed CNN source that accompanied the post was legitimate. Of course, the very much alive father and son proved the news wrong but not before it had traveled far. And once again, the credibility of social media reports was in question.
Can You Handle The Truth?
The clouding of objectivity to come up with a wanted truth for public consumption does have its dangers attached. Here are a few of them:
- A little truthiness does hurt a whole lot because people are misled into taking fiction for fact. The wrong notion of things becomes the norm and widely accepted, while offensive and false stereotypes are attached to the news subjects.
- This delusion then goes on to guide every action of the consumers of the news concerning the matter.
- When they are then confronted with the truth backed up by facts, they suffer cognitive dissonance. Having conflicting notions nullifies their beliefs, making them exhibit hostility.
- People can also be manipulated to do things out of fear or false hope that comes with truthiness.
- Misinformation keeps spreading, and the key virtue of trust is lost.
With the state of things clearly outlined, the necessary step to be taken moving forward is how to handle truthiness.
Social media platforms put in the effort to maintain their trustworthiness. Trending matters are accompanied by credible links containing reliable information on the topic being discussed. Also, to prevent impersonation and the spreading of fake news, authenticated individuals and bodies are verified.
However, even verified accounts are not acquitted of the charge of truthiness. As a result, the burden of discovering authenticity rests on those receiving the news.
In controlling the notion of truthiness, social media users must make sure their biases are in check. They should be open to receiving the truth and nothing short of it.
The general audience would also have to be very observant and pay attention to the slightest of details. Whenever information is gotten, an effort must be made to probe the source to determine if it can be trusted. Other credible sources that support and corroborate the information can also be considered.
What Should Be Done?
Lots of research and authentication is required to validate a story’s truthfulness or truthiness on social media, which can be a stressful endeavor. People have to waste a lot of time patiently to differentiate fact from fiction accurately.
However, it is the ultimate price that has to be paid to get the truth out of any discussion. It’s high time the general public stopped looking out for ‘their fact’ on social media and made an effort to discover facts devoid of bias.
About the author of this article Linda Andress
After more than eight years in the publishing industry, Linda Andress knows how to successfully implement PR strategies and meetings and turn ideas into a successful copy. Now, she has turned into a bookworm, reading three books at a time and writing articles on PR and marketing for HowSociable.