Social media - Where everyone's an expert
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Social media - Where everyone's an expert

"Commenting and sharing posts on a social media post without first reading the content can do a lot of harm and contribute to spreading false information," says Terence Pillay. 

Diverse people holding emoticon / iStock
Diverse people holding emoticon / iStock

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I have something of a love-hate relationship with social media. While I can understand it’s place and merit, I’m not a fan of the puerile content that makes its way on to my timelines. People malign each other on social media all the time. 

For example, some random woman parks her car badly in a shopping mall and the next thing you know it's all over social media. Even I’ve been known to do this,  but only when the offender is in a parking space for a disabled person when they shouldn’t be. It happens every day this constant malignance – it’s never-ending.

I also find that people are constantly attacking others, personally, on social media and more often than not, they’re people they haven’t actually met in real life. 

But what really irritates me is that people often don’t read past the headline of a post, mostly because they’re on data-free mode, but that’s another topic altogether. I’ve seen it so often – somebody will post a link to an article and someone will say, “I haven’t read the article because I’m on data-free mode. Can you please post it in the comments section” But the fact is: most people will simply comment on the headline without reading the article and finding out exactly what it is about. 

I have often put up articles or a blog post where people just read the headline and rabidly comment, in essays, on the subject that they haven’t even bothered reading. And in the end, they look like complete fools because often their diatribe is misplaced. In my experience, people are just too lazy to read and understand things anymore. And these same lazy people that won’t read and educate themselves on topics being written about feeling like they have a right to have an opinion about everything and will just type furiously albeit also ignorantly. I have always encouraged people to have an opinion on things, but that opinion needs to be an informed one.

There are some incredibly ignorant people out there who feel that they must express their opinion on social media no matter what; even if they don’t know the truth or the facts about something. I understand that we live in a world where our lives have been reduced to a hundred and forty characters, but don’t expect to contribute meaningfully on topics that need a little more expounding and understanding by just reading a headline.  And we often see how this can go badly. 

The fact is: it is extremely irresponsible to just shoot your mouth on something based solely on a headline. People were recently left embarrassed when someone posted an article titled something like “Proof that vaccinations cause autism” and it received a record number of comments from droves of people, all of whom thought they were experts on the matter. If they actually bothered to click on the article and read it they would have found that it was a prank and the contents on the piece simply said, “There’s no definitive proof that one is a result of the other” 

In a related incident, an American entertainment blogger posted an article with the headline accusing some or other big-name celebrity of getting divorced because he cheated on his wife. Readers went mad in the comments section opining on what could have happened and who he likely cheated with and they too were left embarrassed when someone actually clicked on the article only to find a note that said something like, “You should read and interrogate that facts before commenting on subjects you don’t know about.” You shouldn’t have opinions on things that you know nothing about. Rather, if you don’t understand something, ask a question as opposed to having a misinformed opinion. If you see something that is provocative and it upsets you and you don’t have enough information about it, ask a question – something like, “Please can you help me understand this better?” Or “Is there somebody out there that knows something about this that could help me to be more informed?” 

Better yet, in the time it takes you to write your ignorant comment, read the piece and educate yourself on what is being spoken about. You don’t have to agree with everything someone says but if you’re going to proffer an opinion, at least back it with fact and information. 

Another fact is that journalists will write what might be considered “provocative headlines” to get you to actually read the piece. So if you have thoughts on the topics then read them and then make informed commentary. That way, you’re less likely to look like an idiot on a very public platform. I’ve often seen people comment on social mediaand when called out on their lack of understanding of the facts, they then admit that they actually didn’t read the whole thing. And these people are dangerous people. 

I don’t know who these people are but there seems to me that there are a lot of people out there with a lot of time on their hands. Why not put that time to good use? For one, you can actually read what you’re commenting on. And two, let’s say you’re raging about litter, why not use the same time it takes to write your essay and go an pick up the litter and clean your environment. Get out of your little bubble and go and do something meaningful. Step outside and do something.

You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts.

ALSO READ: Pet Peeves: The things that get my goat!

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