Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Confirming my Bias

A friend posted a meme this week.  It turned out that the site was yet another satire site, with a web address that made you think otherwise.  And he had not checked the source.  Turns out that ISIS does not have a "Spirit of ISIS" award that they present to people who enforce religious laws in a democracy.

And they didn't award that honor to Kim Davis. It didn't happen.
ISIS Courage Award?  Look it up.

He was almost immediately called out on it.  And his response was, "I didn't realize it was a satire site.  But it doesn't change anything."

The photo confirmed his bias.  So it was good.


Another friend hates Monsanto with a holy passion.  Nary a meme crosses his computer blasting the company that he does not pass on.  He is a very smart guy, but his hatred of the company blinds him to basic evaluation techniques.  So anything that slams Monsanto is fair game.

Some good information has been given to me through reading the forwarded news articles.  Biased, sure, but good information.

And some of the information he provides is not good information.

I have written before about how I rely on my friends to provide me with insights into the broader world.  The things that you are passionate about gives me real information.  I love reading deeply, and trying to understand your perspective. I crave that kind of knowledge like heroin, and if it comes from a passionate stakeholder, all the better.

But the fact that I love reading deeply also means that I will be critical, if you give shallow data, or impressionistic, knee-jerk reactions. 

So here are my thoughts about re-posting (this obviously doesn't apply to jokes - those are fair game).
  1. Read the article.  It should go without saying, but I expect you to read the article before passing it along.  This year, there was an NPR article that the headline boasted: "Why Doesn't America  Read Anymore".  It was an April Fools joke, a joke that you only got if you actually clicked on the link.  It was shared widely, and commented upon endlessly, all by people who had not even opened the link.  DON'T BE THAT PERSON.  I will automatically discount everything you say if it is clear you didn't read the article you posted.  I even got a post a few days ago with a disclaimer: Please get the other side of the story or hell research a little about it before posting. Note: I was unable to watch the full video. Seriously?
  2. In the words of Dr. Merideth (Real Genius), "Always... no, no... never... forget to check your references." If you are sending along a meme or photo, fact check it.  Usually it is as simple as going to the Snopes page and typing in a word or two.  In other cases, you might have to look up the reference.  A friend posted a bit of anti-Republican rant-meme last week.  Those are usually pretty fun, and often clever.  In this case, it was posting the laws that Republicans voted against since the 1970s.  But I checked it out - the first one mentioned never made it to the floor.  I didn't bother checking any more of them, and discounted the point he was making. YOU LOSE CREDIBILITY WHEN YOUR FACTS ARE WRONG.
  3. Fight fair.  If someone calls you out, arguing from the opposite side, listen.  Condescension and ad hominem attacks only make your argument weak.  Someone who cares enough to comment might have something to say. 
  4. Be prepared to help your friends understand.  Have additional resources that you can provide if they ask.  (Believe me, most people won't ask, but the ones who do are potential allies.)
  5. Always be ready to send people to  Because it is inevitable - you are going to get the silly question that people could ask siri to answer, but couldn't be bothered.  So have 'let-me-google that-for-you' on your speed dial.  (OK, that is the exception to the no-condescension rule).
I don't expect everyone to be an expert on their passions.  But if you tell me that 30,000 babies starved to death last night, I'll really want to know some more details.  And if it untrue, I will be unlikely to believe the next thing you say.  Unfortunate, but true. My emotions can be manipulated, but if they are falsely manipulated, I will no longer listen to you.  I will judge you.

And I might poke fun at you behind your back.  Or maybe in a blog entry.


1 comment:

Daimon M. McNew, P.E. said...

Our media is the prime offender. I understand that time is limited and we only have just a few minutes to share, however, the American public has some sort of extreme trust in the media that makes them feel "a certain way" and with that comes a great amount of omitted information. All in all this is a formula for disaster at the sacrifice of the betterment of our great country. Please seek the "rest of the story."

Oh sorry did you say no comments?