Fake news, tabloids, and media are nothing new to American culture, but social media in combination with fake news is more recent. The amount of information we consumed on social media has grown exponentially over the last decade. With this increase, it has brought on plenty of fake news that is continuously jammed into our screens as we are scrolling through our news feeds. There is so much going that we do not have the time or the will to even dissect what we are reading to ensure its legitimacy.
While this has many problematic components to it such as the decline in people’s comprehension of higher-level material, it also has some direct implications for American society. Given the vacant political positions that needed to be filled this past election cycle, it seemed as though an increase of fake news entered the stream of our newsfeeds. Each bit of information, articles and the like all served the purpose to influence the viewer that a particular presidential candidate was the best fit to lead the free world. However, often times people ignore the validity of this information and still take it with an ocean of salt. While this cycle of hollow trust has always survived through the infancy of social media, its political implications make this topic all the more necessary to resolve.
Though only limited formal research has been conducted surrounding this idea of fake news in social media influencing voters, there is still a large gray area that has yet been explored. As was the case with researchers at Stanford found that “social media was an important but not a dominant source of news in the run up of the election.” Although this one study found social media to be an important source of news, but not a dominant one, it still holds significance because of the implications it has on the direction of our country. Americans are steadily shifting from the medium in which they are gaining their news information. A decade ago, social media had little to no effect on political elections, now we are witnessing a sharp increase in its usage for a good portion of our knowledge. A decade from now, social media’s influence through the fake news stories on political elections may increase enough to serve a dominant role in our elections.
Whether its partial role on influencing elections or taking on a dominant one, it is clear that there needs to be action towards erasing fake news’ influence on the political sphere. We cannot have fake news of a candidate give an uncharacteristic impression of that person and in turn have someone base his or her vote on this false information. I do not have to go into much detail to illustrate the negative aspects attached to fake news in voting in order to highlight its toxicity.
However, what is there to do about it? In order to tackle the issue, we must examine the root of fake news’ influence. In doing so we have to dissect whether it is our heavy consumption of social media and exposure to fake news that is the issue or is it a personal responsibility? In other words, is the solution rooted in our lack of critical thinking/analysis, which makes us prone to being gullible? While banning fake news from the Internet all together seems a bit extreme and perhaps unconstitutional, we must look to more feasible solutions.
Therefore, a more feasible approach seems to develop a culture of viewing the information we seen with a critical eye. Although the American education system does not fully encourage students to question everything, we must shy away from this type of thinking. We need to begin to become more knowledgeable individuals with a burning curiosity for the true instead of blindly accepting information at face value. Only then will we be able to shield ourselves from receiving misinformation and making decisions on the basis of false facts. Although this is not the only solution to fake news’ influence through social media, it is one that will ensure people’s liberties to free speech by not being restricted through strict bans. Another solution could be giving fines for those who publish false articles and facts. However, this to will give the government added authority in being the gatekeepers as to which articles are released and which never see the light of day.