Once upon a time, there was a man who hated a certain sort of person. They got on his nerves so much that he would scream, and steam would come out of his ears. His doctor thought this most unhealthy. One day, the man came up with a cunning plan. “Aha!” he thought, “I can take to the internet to complain about those people!”. So he took to the internet and wrote huge essays in which he branded all those sorts of people “psychopaths”, complete with his own definition of a psychopath…
You’ve probably noticed that I write a lot of stuff which can be said to be somewhat factual; usually based on my own interest or *cough* “expertise”. But, it’s also full of opinions – like my love of pants or my firm belief that prisons don’t really reduce crime (have I mentioned that?). A lot of blogs are that way – if you skim through a few posts, you’ll find an intricate mix of fact and opinion. That’s great; who wants to read a boring, perfectly-balanced essay outside of erm… a place where that sort of thing is standard? Exactly – only weirdos. Fact.
The problem comes when you consider that people like my Auntie, or the users of 4chan, actually use the internet. By which I mean those people that believe everything they read, even if it doesn’t make sense or contradicts other information they have read. Where a non-gullible person might look at an obviously wrong thing (say, an instance where the whole world is branded psychotic) and think “what utter nonsense this blogger is talking!”, other folks will look at it and think it’s some seriously deep shit, kept from us under lock and key by the man.
To explain why this is such a big problem, we need to return to my Auntie. Sorry, Auntie… I’m not poking fun, you’re just a very good example. You see, she is one of your typical Facebook spammers. She LOVES to share things, and puts no consideration at all into whether or not anyone wants to read it. She especially loves the “shocking” “facts” that do the rounds on there – stuff like secret changes to privacy settings, or about new bugs that will eat your insides out that are everywhere, totes. She genuinely believes this stuff, as I mentioned before; she doesn’t even think to double check any of the information she meets, leading to problems where she has made her Facebook page easily accessible to just about anyone, and half her Facebook friends won’t buy pillows anymore for fear of being eaten alive.
It all sounds relatively harmless – but there’s more than just Facebook on the internet. What about scammy emails? For starters, my Auntie is a prime target for the Prince of Nigeria. And what about health misinformation? What if seriously ill people suddenly stopped all their treatments, convinced they were going to die if they carried on?
I’m not exaggerating. In fact, to get my Auntie to stop sharing every bit of crap she came across, another relative told her they all contained viruses that she unwittingly sent to all her Facebook buddies. She didn’t check this and automatically believed it; we’ve not heard a peep since.
What I’m trying to say is that the internet is full of crap, and if you flick through a few blog posts, the same is true. But the internet is also being used by people who find it super difficult to work out what is real and what is fake. We have to put some responsibility on people to use their common sense and fact check things, sure, but we also have to accept that people are lazy and gullible and just don’t do that. Some responsibility therefore lands on the people creating the content. So for everyone’s sake, please consider this when writing your blog! It takes two minutes to state where the fuck you are getting this from, and if you can’t find something to back it up, state it is an opinion (not the same as fact), or just don’t write it. Simple pimple.