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Social media has way of misinforming public

Posted on May 18, 2016 by Taber Times

If one wants to see the dark side of social media, one has to look no further than one’s own Facebook page with the current controversy surrounding a tweet by the Town of Taber’s IT manager Tom Moffatt, making a connection between climate change and the Fort McMurray fire that devastated the community.

Throw in the anger politically against Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau involving those same Fort McMurray fires and throw in a pinch of the race for the United States presidency, and you have a front-row seat to how social media can go awry.

Social media helps reach an audience our forefathers could only imagine and if handled properly, do a lot of good in a community.

A prime example of this is the situation of town councillor Jack Brewin’s desperate search for a living or dead organ donor for his liver. A personal search for more than a year proved fruitless, but the extra attention brought by a ‘Find a Liver for Jack’ Facebook page helped Brewin secure a match in a little over a month. #But social media examples of late have been anything but positive.

Was Moffatt’s tweet incredibly insensitive and boneheaded? Of course. Worthy of termination of one’s employment? That is open to debate, given the tweet was done on Moffatt’s private time, and something town council is currently debating.

If one were to agree with the many social media comments calling for Moffatt’s resignation or dismissal, then that is the litmus test for the termination of one’s employment and opens the slippery slope of investigating one’s own social media footprint.

One has to not look very far in chat rooms where several comments can border on hate speech, yet no cries for employment termination.

If one’s tweet or Facebook post tends to align somewhat with one’s political, religious or economic viewpoint, cries for one’s firing tend to be muted by the same ‘they do not speak for every (enter belief system here)’ retort.

It is perhaps human nature to gobble up any bit of information that aligns with one’s belief system and the immediacy of social media makes us accept posts as gospel truth.

But alas, Prime Minister Trudeau’s financial aid to Fort McMurray does not include just matching funds from those who donate, but also there is a legally-binding federal disaster relief program, contrary to many Facebook posts claiming Trudeau is giving more to refugees than Fort McMurrary fire relief. And no, despite the accusations of some on social media, Premier Notley did not drop a match on Fort McMurray and start the fire herself.

The quest to spread a viewpoint via social media is so hyperactive that even a heavily-leaning to the right-wing American Facebook friend of a Taber Times employee posted an article about American presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, only going off the title. He thought it ran contrary to Bernie’s ‘every man’ image, where it was the exact opposite. It was immediately removed by the poster when he discovered it was indeed a left-wing article with a misleading headline.

Memes dominate social media, giving but a single barb to whatever viewpoint it serves, not taking the whole complex issue into consideration.

It seems the far-leaning right and far left for both sides seem most guilty of posting misinformation and the immediacy of social media only worsens the chance of a misinformed public.

A fast-food nation should not be how one digests its information to make for an informed decision.

Whatever your political, economic or social leaning, take some time to slow down and examine the information in front of you before you forge ahead into what can become a heated debate.

Just because a meme is clever, doesn’t mean its true.

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