Don’t Shoot The Instant Messenger: A Rant

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I’ve been pretty quiet about all this lately, but I’m starting to see a growing number of friends, acquaintances and media outlets attempting to focus their anger and shift blame for recent political events towards the internet and social media. The words ‘echo chamber‘ have been used to describe why things have gone so shockingly wrong recently for the left (and I would argue the right, as well). From someone who has been using the public internet longer than most of you (exceptions apply: shout out to my Gopher peeps, props to the Arpanaughts), I will reiterate what people need to understand about this form of communication:

 
The internet is a publishing medium.
 
What this means is that everything you type, upload and otherwise put online, on your blog, your twitter feed, Instagram selfie, Tinder profile is a published work. Published, in the traditional understanding of what “published” means… like a newspaper article, or a book of poetry, or an essay on the adorableness of cats. (I suppose one could argue it is more akin to self publishing, but I like to think of websites and social media as a publishing company with no actual curation… unless it involves nudity, but that’s a different rant).
 
If you were to write something on the internet about someone that is false and harmful to their character, they cannot sue you for slander, because slander doesn’t apply to the publishing medium. Instead, they sue you for libel, because it is a published defamation of their character. When you share an article you found to one of your feeds, with commentary and discourse in the comments, in a very real sense, you have become a journalist. You have reported “the News”. You are the one responsible for ensuring that piece of news has been properly fact checked, confirmed by a primary source, and you are responsible for accepting and negotiating the bias.
 

The recent upsets in the political world isn’t solely because most people “only get their news from one source“. Historically, small communities tended to only have a single newspaper that they received the ‘news of the day’ from. Multimedia proliferation is a uniquely late 20th century phenomenon. The recent upsets are not because there are now suddenly ‘news’ sources that fabricate stories, there have always been news sources that fabricate stories (remember Jayson Blair? I do).

No, Facebook is not to blame here. Misunderstanding the ramifications of what it means to publish information without a thought towards what its impact could be is. Amateur journalism from people who don’t realize they have become journalists. These feeds are not private, even if they feel that way, the content you publish on them is your responsibility. The” bubble” and the “echo chamber” view of the world is not the fault of the internet, it is the fault of anyone who has not done their due diligence and has lazily accepted that something they’ve read must be true because it feels true.

Don’t shoot the instant messenger.

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2 Responses to Don’t Shoot The Instant Messenger: A Rant

  1. Jimmy says:

    What’s the difference when I press ‘caps lock’ and write a new comment? haha.

    Hi bro, I’m Asian with my weak English… this is my first time I visit your site. I feel like… I’ve found A guy with the amazing think about today ‘what’s the **** is going on’… why do common people have blamed the internet? they must be never chatting use mirc, because they only know facebook.

    So, do you have a plan to change the world better with big things? and one more thing, are you still alive? why don’t you make a new post this year… i like your site!

    • Keith says:

      Unless they’re getting paid for it, blog posts are for people who have the time and money to not have to work. I update this blog about as often as I get colonoscopies.

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