Liberal Tears, #FakeNews, and Finding Meaning on Post-Election Social Media

This will be my final blog of the year and I did not have to go far in thinking how I should conclude this year. Nothing has quite permeated 2016 like the election of Donald Trump as our President of the United States. Since blogging and being social media I have been more politically minded. A little two years ago I posed this the question for Social Work Helper; “Is Politics Failing Social Work or Is Social Work Failing Politics?” In that article I argued that social workers are the experts in their respective area’s of practice. We should use that expertise to inform those in politics what people need. This lead me to think about how we consume that information before we convey it.

Prior to presenting information to a politician you would want it to be based on reliable and evidence based sources. Technology is shaping how we consume information so I sought out how to better understand this. An interesting terminology called “Fake News” developed this year to describe some of the information we consume.  In the fast paced world we live, lots of information is being consumed on social media.

Our computers open us up to a wide range of perspectives and arguments. In this political year that might understatement of the year. The average social media user comes across several political articles on their daily Facebook feed.  However I am not your average social media user.  If you follow election conversations on twitter like I do (I am a bit obsessed). You may have come across something like this …

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Yes I am one of those pesky Liberals disappointed in the election results in the United States. I have some serious concerns about Mr. Trump during his candidacy about his  views about refugees, immigrants, mental health, women, healthcare… well just about everything.  Being a liberal you should not be surprised by this but what you might be surprised by is how I want this to work in some way. People frequently mistake my objection to Trump as a wish for our him and our country to fail.  My “liberal tears” are not just about his policies, they are about his way of communicating his ideas.

This was also tweeted at me as I expressed displeasure about how Trumps tweets, “trump” due process and checks and balances…

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At the time of this writing Mr. Trump has not held an official press conference since mid-July. He has limited his communications with the American people to tweets, his one sided “Thank You Tour”, and limited sound bites/photo ops at Trump Tower. This is my biggest problem is the difference between Trump the Candidate and Trump the incoming President. Of course we have no idea “what he means”; he has limited his communications to clarify.

I was also accused that in agreeing with Rachel Maddow, I was propagating “fake news”. If there was one other headline from 2016 it would be the advent of  “fake news”. I have become thrilled with how social media can bring about change. This political season has demonstrated some the limitations of this. I have read two great articles about social media analytics and fake news. For a deep dive into social media data about “fake news” check these articles out…

“What is The Point Of Political Journalism?” by Colin Horgan

and

“The Deep Truth about Fake News” by Joe Brewer

What does the data tell us about “fake news”. The articles both tell us that data collection via websites is more valuable to these websites then likes and shares. That articles written by “fake news” sites are tracked by who views, shares them and how they are connected.  The first article also talks about there were lots of tweets from people claiming “fake news” there was also people claiming that we are “Post Truth”.  Concluding that “‘Post-truth’ doesn’t mean we’re all living in a world dictated by lies; it means that everyone has their own truth.”

It’s stating the obvious but putting numbers behind the fact that we each believe our own reality is an important message.  We can’t be dictated by lies but need to think about who and why people are sharing “lies”. For those who followed the “PizzaGate” story putting “lies” out there had almost dangerous consequences. The data demonstrated the need to examine the cross talk between “truth” and “lies”.

Circling back to Mr. Trump who does speak brief absolutes and assertions. We either take him as truth or believe he is lying. I don’t think he is lying, but the way he communicates opens him up to more of these criticisms. The same thing goes with stories that go with his narrative (like PizzaGate) or his assertion that 3 million people voted illegally.

However, this speaking in absolute truths is not limited to Mr. Trump. As we step into 2017, our communications should be clear, concise, and based on fact.  Also be open to the evidence that your “truth” maybe someone else “lie”. That someone else’s “fake news” might be their reality.

How we communicate via technology comes with consequences (both good and bad). How we communicate on social media now carries with it analytics and data. It appears big brother or in this case web page managers are indeed watching us.  Our divisive political conversations appear to be passing like two ships in the night. Leaders and citizens need to look at how these conversations are mapped and were they meet. They do interact but not enough. We see each other’s realities everyday on social media. Let’s not dismiss them but question and examine them for both the “truth” and the “lies”.

The social media data about “fake news” demonstrates what Mark Twain predicted years ago…

 “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

 

Cheers to more dialogue in 2017 and helping each other “put our shoes on”.

 

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