The Issue With Headline Readers

The advent of social media has been quite the boon to civilization.  It has been a valuable component of the successes of globalism, leading to a more open and transparent world.  Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have contributed to the conversation on a particular subject between two or more peoples from different corners of the planet and has brought together family members that may have never even known they were related.

Today, many millennials use social media as a soapbox, to get their message across to others who may or may not have the opportunity to see an issue from that particular side.  Social media have been wonderful mediums for people to maintain discourse that adds to the intellectual capacity of all involved.  However, within the last few years, we had seen this outlet of media contribute to the dispersal of yellow journalistic fake news, partial views of the world and arguments that forever destroy the very fabric of friendship that was fostered before social media ever became a permanent staple in our lives.

A Medium Of Misinformation

It seems like social media has converted to a medium that now fosters discontent and my biggest issue with it has become the adherence to promoting a headline of a story as the validation of one’s belief.  News outlets like CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and others have only contributed to further disagreement by using captivating headlines and soundbites to prey on the laziness of people that stems from the availability of vast amount of information at any given period. What’s weird to a person like myself — who reads two newspapers from front to back every day(I’m quite old-fashioned and still get papers like the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal delivered to my door), and is subscribed to over 30 RSS feeds from a multitude of news outlets — is that with all the information at our disposal, no one knows anything.  This isn’t an attempt to be pretentious, nor is this my way of putting myself on a pedestal so you all could be amazed at just how smart I am(*wink wink*), this is just my issue with those who read headlines or listen to soundbites and then spout nonsense on their Facebook feeds.

Irresponsible Reporting

I cannot honestly blame the people entirely. Obviously, the media is not innocent in this issue.  The likes of the media outlets mentioned above only further foment the idiocy of the people that watch or read(what’s that?).  An excellent example of the issue with headline readers is that of the 2016 election.  Now, I won’t get into a conversation with you on whether Donald Trump was the lesser of two evils, or whether Hillary Clinton was the most flawed candidate in the history of United States elections, nor will I get into an argument with you on whether Russian meddling contributed to the victory of now President Trump.  If this is what you were expecting, you might as well not keep reading.

My qualm is with the media and the people on social media who read just the headline of an article, make a blanket statement on their Facebook status and then go off and do whatever they do in their daily lives.  Most will just look at the Facebook status and either like it or scoff at it and move onto to the next flawed status.  Unfortunately for me, that is not the way I operate, and it is probably something I ought to work on because it only gets me in trouble. As I was scrolling through my feed this morning, I came across a status that said “LOL, but Putin is a friend to the US right?”  This status honestly piqued my interests, as I consider myself a very objective individual who likes to see the argument from all types of angles and then decide my opinion based on proper analysis.

However, with this status, I knew I could not take it seriously.  First off, the individual in question is extremely bias and frankly blinded by her hatred for our current President.  Obviously, after such a divisive and caustic election, there are some bitter feelings on both sides of the divide and understandably so.  Nonetheless, the article this individual shared was had the headline “Russian spy ship sighted off coast of Delaware“; Exhibit A of media attempts to further create a story out of something that simply isn’t so. Without pretending that I have any experience in spycraft(a real spy would never admit to being one!), I do have some general knowledge of it based off of my readings of history and general adherence to reading the news. Anyone that knows anything about spycraft understands that since the start of the Cold War, or the Post-World War II era, states practice intelligence gathering on not just enemies, but also allies. So I decide to do something that unfortunately many do not. Before commenting on this individual’s status, I choose to open the article and read it, from start to finish.  After doing so, a simple comment was made that went something along the lines of “this goes on all over the world, stop grasping at straws,” subsequently, hilarity ensued. Automatically, the defensive mechanism in this individual kicked in, their hatred for Trump caused them to ask a ridiculous question that had no merit to it.  

The question was, “how many times did it happen under Obama,” that is when I knew blood was in the water, here’s my opportunity to go for the kill.  My response was simply to quote TWO SENTENCES (I am not even asking for much here, it is like 50 words.) The official noted that this is not the first time the ship has been deployed off the coast of the U.S. Similar patrols were carried out by the Leonov in 2014 off the coast of Florida and in 2015, adding that such missions were much more common during the Cold War. This should have been the end of the conversation, in the real world the person would have simply admitted guilt and said that they were only operating based on the headline and their blind judgment spawned by their utter disdain for our President.  However, that is not what it ended up as being.  The result was more hearsay and blatant lies being thrown at me in defense of their ‘alternative facts’, the word they love to throw around whenever Kelly Ann Conway or Sean Spicer speak.

The Age Of Information

Unfortunately, this all boils down to the flaws of having so much information at our fingertips.  When there’s too much access to information, people become numb to the facts because there’s just too much that needs to be processed in the brain.  Cognitive psychology is a difficult topic for me to process in my mind, but neurons will be neurons, and neural network pathways are neural network pathways. As mentioned earlier, the media is very complicit in the distribution of informational hysteria that we see all over social media.

 They formulate their headlines in such a way, that automatically renders the story in a certain way to the reader in the hopes that the reader does not even read the piece.  The intent being to garner a click on the story, perhaps read a sentence or two, or a subscription and then share it for other intellectually lazy individuals to do the same.  So my plea is to the people of my ilk, is to remain committed to reading and analyzing stories from start to finish. We need more intellectually driven debates on Facebook and Twitter, not less, and we must do more to ensure that we continue to have factual discourse so that even if we agree to disagree, at least there’s a semblance of fact-based information.  Let’s stop the dumbing down of our generation, and make it known that it is entirely normal to be interested in taking in all the information and then creating an opinion based on all the facts.