A sea of information is generated on a daily basis that is distributed near and far. Take a few seconds to consider how many newspapers are churned out each day worldwide. Now add to that the articles, blogs, Instagrams, and videos spewed out every single day. While a lot of that content tends to be biased, sponsored and inaccurate there is a lot of content that isn’t fake news.
The agents of news
The media industry is massive. Journalists who put their lives at risk to report stories from war-torn areas are just as much a part of the media fraternity as are paparazzi photographers that wait for outside gyms for budding actors.
Even in newspapers, one side of a page could contain an article about a grand larceny and right on the other side, there could be a story about a new type of diet.
Reader responsibility is now greater than ever, but so is the pressure on publications. We live in a time where there are too much news and just as much confusion.
There are so many outlets simultaneously competing for eyeballs, so accuracy becomes the only differentiator. Despite this need for accuracy, news pieces can be biased based on the writers’ viewpoints, based on the funding the news outlet receives, and so many other factors. The media is made up of thousands of people, the information shared by the media is a culmination of those thousands of opinions. The interesting thing is, the media is just as diverse as the readers and consumers.
So as a reader how do you form your own opinion? How do you create your own viewpoint instead of just adopting the viewpoint of whatever you read? I would recommend that you read as much as possible, watch as much as possible and think for yourself.
If you are a conservative person, read liberal newspapers and vice versa. I believe that the more we open our minds to information, the better chance we have of refining our own voice and tastes.
A term I recently learned is ‘keyboard activist’. Some synonyms for this term are ‘keyboard warrior’ and ‘keyboard ninja’. These refer to people who make their opinions heard (rather read) on social media very aggressively.
I always look at comments on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook left by people on the pages of brands, celebrities and political leaders. Comments that are sometimes a paragraph long, comments that the celebrity or leader in question might not even read. Sometimes these comments turn into debates between people. People jump in and spark of sub-conversations in the comment section with not an inkling of caution. Personally, I’m too self-conscious to engage in public debate in the comment section, so people that aren’t afraid to ignite comment debates amaze me.
The only problem with keyboard activism is that the argument is only valid when there are a large number of people backing it up.
Only days ago, Kim Kardashian posted a photo on Instagram promoting appetite suppressing lollipops. Appetite suppressors can cause a series of problems and can also encourage people with eating disorders to make bad choices. After scores of comments left under that very post caused Kim Kardashian to take that promotional text off her page I started thinking about keyboard ninjas and the power of a crowd. It was this same power that ignited the #metoo movement, the same power that amplified the #justiceforasifa movement. When used for a positive goal, keyboard warriors can effect change in the best way.
But just as publications and journalists have a responsibility to write the truth, readers of the news who turn into keyboard ninja’s also have a responsibility to bear. Countless times celebrities and leaders are left with abrasive comments questioning their parenting skills, what they are wearing and who they may be dating. Today we have platforms to share news, platforms to consume news, and platforms to discuss the validity of news; but does that give us the right to tutor others on the validity of their choices? Probably not.
Everyone must participate, everyone must be responsible, but we must also be respectful.
Mutual respect: click baits, sensationalism and the wrath of keyboard warriors
I completely believe that we can turn the term ‘keyboard ninjas’ into a positive one with the use of restraint and basic respect for one another.
It will become easier to do this when we can stop subscribing to the clickbait genre of news. As a writer in 2018, I know how challenging it is to convince people to read an article, even if it is just 500 words. I also understand the necessity to write headlines that are catchy. Despite this struggle, I fully believe that click bate headlines are just as harmful as comments left by online vigilantes (also known as trolls)
Clickbait articles usually contain 250 words of information that can easily be condensed into one sentence. Find out what $3 face cream the Kardashian sisters use! Find out which yesteryear actress got duped by a fraud! Headlines like this are just as damaging as comments left by trolls. As journalists and writers, it is a challenging time to expect people to read, but that doesn’t give us the permission to sensationalize, trivialize and clickbait are way into reader’s eyes.
A few days ago, Mr Amitabh Bachchan raised a very interesting point in is a daily blog. A blog I highly recommend reading on a regular basis, it has been a personal learning tool for me. In his blog, he discusses sensationalism in news pieces, particularly in regards to the simple punctuation- a question mark. Earlier this week he wrote that the writer is safe because you put a question mark after… let the people decipher the question mark .. and generally, the question mark is almost viewed as factuality .. so the sensation is created, discussions and reactions are provoked.
I think this a valid point to consider. Writers can get away with open-ended headlines as an excuse to pull people in.
Oftentimes when I write an article, I want to put forward my opinion, while still leaving room for the reader to come up with their own. I want my readers to be informed, consider my perspective and then decide their own- even if it opposes my own. At the same time, I also have the responsibility to share the truth. Sometimes the truth is not a matter of opinion, it is just a fact in those instances, hiding behind question marks is unfair.