Friday, April 19, 2013

The truth is out there

Possibly the most frustrating thing about the many thousands of words I’ve digested on the Thatcher subject is how deeply entrenched people’s viewpoints are. It might be predictable that she was feted by the right and hated by the left but it is frustrating that some will not allow for a tiny chink of doubt in their strident opinions. This wouldn’t be so offensive were they not insistent upon sharing those strongly/wrongly held beliefs at every available opportunity.

Enough time has elapsed that we can view her rule for what it was and the long-term effect that it had upon the Country. In the last blog whilst skirting the subject myself I was keen to point to a vast number of articles I’d read on her. Reviews and opinion pieces I’d spent time on because I wanted to check my own beliefs and judgements – to check if, and to what extent, she could be blamed for this mess that we’re in.

Naturally there are grey areas and my leanings and empathies were always likely to be with the writers and opinion formers whose thoughts and reasoning correlated most with my own. What I tried not to do was leap upon every wrong-headed or idiotic statement that some were keen to repeat across every social media outlet throughout the last two weeks. Like many, I had reached Thatcheration (my favourite mash-up word of the week) point long before the over-priced and over-blown funeral.

From those last two paras alone it will be quite clear where I sit on the subject and I don’t intend to dwell on it, others have already done a much better and more in-depth job. I did try to read a wider cross-section of thought though, not just those that mirrored my own. Now, more than ever, this information is available to all of us – we don’t have to parrot the bigoted or wrong-headed comments of our Facebook friends we can actually search and find information with relative ease. Sadly it seems that we still don’t.

I suspect in this time-pressured age that it’s just easier to like, comment and share than it is to search, read and digest. If you’re happy with that then I wish you well in your own little bubble but please accept that you’ll often be wrong. Unfortunately there are those, for whatever warped reasons, who will take advantage of your shortcomings and play you for a fool.

At least two examples have popped up in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. One was a Twitter hoax that had people hurriedly sharing a message that the Marathon organisers were donating $1 to victims for every re-tweet. Another was on Facebook claiming that one of the victims was a young girl running for the victims of Sandy Hook. You were asked to share this as a mark of respect and many did – not thinking clearly or even realising that the victims of Boston had yet to be formally identified.  I may be equally guilty of doing similar but what purpose do these ‘shares’ and statuses really serve anyway, do you feel like a better person for doing it or do you just want others to think you are?
 
It is sad that these hoaxes exist but they do and in a 24 hour rolling news vacuum with so many social media outlets they are disseminated faster than ever. There is a lesson to think before you post but of course many don’t. Caught in the moment they want to participate when hesitation (for once) would be a far better choice. Naturally we don’t want to believe that our goodwill is being exploited but we should be educated enough to at least check – it has to become the modern day equivalent of thinking before you speak.

These things reach fever pitch when the righteous indignation of the social mob is inflamed by some outrage or other. It’s easier than ever to round up a posse in pursuit of some ‘noble’ cause and send them out with virtual pitchforks and flaming torches on a mission that can at best be described as bullying, at worst potentially life-threatening. So think: is that picture you’re sharing really who and what it purports to be – can you trust those who created it?

I’m beginning to understand – and it was made clear with Thatcher - not everyone shares your views so why share them? I’m happy if you want to provoke a debate but not if you’re seemingly unprepared to entertain any differing viewpoints. The maxim that you shouldn’t believe everything you read has never been more accurate than in regard to social media. Don’t dive in feet first when you can do the research, let’s be careful – and thoughtful – out there.

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