Social media trolls ruining positive uses

I would quit Facebook tomorrow if I didn’t think it would hinder my job and the relationships fostered because of it. I am just sick of it.

Facebook, Twitter, Snap­chat and the like are a cancer on society. They allow us to keep up with friends from a distance and share photos and things that genuinely are positive, but with all good things come people who will ruin it eventually. That time has come. Social media is ruined.

The trolls have come out with their ugly teeth and matted hair to ruin anything positive social media was constructing.

What I am talking about are the hack sites that have cropped up to take over the Internet. Luckily, there is a gatekeeper of sorts in our managing editors who keep this stuff from finding its way into our newspaper, but there are no social gatekeepers—just a quick click of the mouse and another false article can be shared with no ramifications or requirement of a correction if proven false.

I grew ever more frustrated with this on a recent Saturday morning as I was relaxing and mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook as I ate lunch. One of my friends posted something supporting their opinion from a hack site called the “Conservative Turbine.” Then another posted from the “Daily KOS.” Within five minutes or so, 15-20 links to bad journalism sites were shared, and I had enough. Not all the info is bad, but much of it is, and what is fact is presented in a way that supports the site’s agenda always.

Much of it had to do with the recent shootings and the “Black Lives Matter” cause that has polarized the Internet. I didn’t have a problem with my friends’ varied opinions on the subjects, but did have a problem with them supporting their opinions with yellow journalism, false facts and unconfirmed reporting from what is often some dude with an agenda and a website.

People can’t seem to tell the difference, and it doesn’t matter if you are conservative or liberal or somewhere in-between, several of my friends are sharing such stuff and many of these people I regard as intelligent with insights worth listening to.

So why are intelligent people sharing things that are clearly agenda-filled crap? My only explanation is that folks either don’t understand what real reporting is from a source that is creditable (something most of us learned in high school or earlier), or they simply don’t care.

I can’t take much more of it, though, so I created a few simple rules to follow on social media so those of us who don’t want to see unverified drivel as the Internet blows up in debate don’t have to.

1. Google the headline or article and try to verify it. If no one else is reporting on something of national importance, it is likely unverified or false.

2. Look at the web address, and you can figure out if it’s yellow journalism pretty easily. If the web address has a clear stance in it such as “conservative” or “liberal,” then it is posting behind a stance it is taking. This isn’t creditable journalism.

3. If it’s not from a brand you recognize outside of the Internet, such as The Boston Globe, New York Times, Dallas Morning News, Hutchinson News, Wichita Eagle, etc., then it could be a hoax site or blogger chiming in from his mother’s basement.

4. If it’s in a “meme” or goofy photo with information in it, then Google the fact or information to verify it. I had a friend post a “meme” quoting a presidential candidate as saying something, and the “meme” even attributed the quote to a newspaper.

The problem is the candidate never said it or anything close to it. It was 100 percent false. These “memes” are easy to create and spread false information often, so before you share, you should make sure that isn’t going to make you look like a moron.

These are simple but important guidelines, as the spreading of false information only works to further polarize our country.

As I told one of the people I messaged on Saturday, don’t spread false truth because it makes you look stupid, but it also gives real media outlets like the ones I run a bad name.

I don’t like people saying “the media” when referring to social media posts, because most of these hack sites are so far from media that they wouldn’t know what being a real journalist is if it punched them in the face.

We spend considerable resources putting out a quality product in print and online. We pay journalists a living wage to go to meetings, get quotes and verify information. Do we screw up? Sure, but no one is perfect.

The difference between us and them is we try to provide reliable news from a trustworthy source, and when we post opinion we label it as such, while they are just pushing agenda with no regard. Know the difference because it’s important. Social media keep driving us apart as a country all while trying to make us feel more connected.

Don’t share irresponsibility.

Joey Young is majority co-owner and publisher of the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ventures.

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