Social Media and the Democratization of Truth
I am quite fond of social media. I love the connection, the sharing of information, and the ease of interchange. With all of its benefits, however, come a number of drawbacks. With the election season in full swing, I am reminded how the equal playing field of the world wide web has negatively impacted an ability for honest dialogue.
In theory, it seems nice that niche news services no longer have exclusive access to “the facts” (if there are such things). We have seen numerous examples where non-official sources have provided better information than traditional news outlets. However, more often than not ideology trumps truth and punditry trumps accurate sources. Say what you will about traditional news outlets (and much negative can be said) but the idea that “facts” must be vetted and checked is important. It seems that news agencies are getting themselves in trouble when they try to compete with bloggers or try to push an ideological agenda.
One quick glance at Facebook provides me with numerous opinions and quotes concerning politics, economics, religion, and more. Some are inspiring, clever, and quite persuasive. However, often the powerful and untrue statements are given equal weight with the mundane yet accurate. I mean, where else can the ramblings of an unemployed college student be on par with a trained economist on the topic of rising gas prices. The same is true for theologians, teachers, and more. While education does not guarantee truth it is important to recognize that some sources are more reliable and more qualified than others.
Why Scholarship is Better than Punditry
This is precisely why scholarship, at least in its best iterations, is so enlivening.
- Scholarship values disagreement without being disagreeable.
- Scholarship relies on peer review for accuracy of information and strength of argument.
- Scholarship prioritizes truth over ideology.
Now scholarship can fall into the same ideological traps as anything else but it hopefully has the necessary safeguards to avoid a never ending spiral into meaningless bickering.
I suppose there is little recourse to the current state of dialogue in the public arena. Hopefully, more people will take the quest for truth and honesty seriously and learn that every opinion is not equally valid.