Social Media and the age of Post-truth

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The explosive growth of social media platforms has transformed the way we communicate and interact with each other.

With the inception of blogging, social media started to emerge popular among internet users. websites like MySpace and LinkedIn gained prominence in the early 2000s.

In 2005, another milestone was reached in the digital world with the creation of  YouTube that offers a platform for users to communicate and share video materials across great distances.

By 2006, Facebook and Twitter both became available to users, offering a personal platform for individuals to voice their ideas, experiences, impressions, social events and opinions. between 2005 and 2013, we have witnessed a 64 percent increase in the number of people using social media with a total of 1.2 billion users connect through Facebook and Twitter with their accounts.

In the middle east, eventually, social media was used as magnifying glass on the social and political reform that mounted to the spark of the 2011 Arab Spring.

The tool of social media was utilized not just as tool to call for reform, rather it was a, somehow, a tricky means of exporting the reality of what is going on the streets of revolting countries to the rest of the world.

These images, in many cases, were misleading, cropped out of context or even completely fake. In journalism, in general, there are only two categories of news: fake and true. The post 2011 digital sphere has become, however, a post-truth sphere, meaning that social media is promoting multiple truths and realities that serve agenda setters.

“Usage of the adjective, which describes circumstances where emotions and personal beliefs are more influential than facts, increased by around 2000 per cent since last year, research showed. It was first coined with this meaning was in a 1992 essay playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine, according to Oxford Dictionaries.”

The chance of achieving considerable reform in the middle east via social media is defiantly limiting due to governments’ aggressive hand in shutting down digital channels that people use to voice their demands. In Egypt, for example, there are 26 million people on Facebook (up from 4.7 million people in 2011), security forces arrested three people who administered two dozen Facebook pages, along with those who have been involved in previous protests.

Additionally, these governments have adopted to using those same digital channels to spread misinformation and creating an alternative narrative, which the public did not consider.

In an era when the Oxford Dictionary names “post-truth” as their word of the year, it is time for the audience to adopt a more critical attitude towards what is being circulated on social media.

As receivers, we have to be very careful with what is spreading and going viral. We have to master the art of questioning every piece of information; why is it widely spreading?  Are there credible counter views? What was the initial source?  And is it credible?

Under the theme Co-Exist, Co-Create: Learning to Live and Work Together, the 2017 WISE Summit was convened in Doha’s National Convention Center on the 14th and the 15th of November. In it’s opening session the summit has highlighted the issue of educating people in the age of post-truth.

“I think we face a very difficult challenge because we’re living in an age of not just technological revolution but political revolution” Fareed Zakaria, Host of CNN's GPS said at the opening session of WISE.

“In that world of post truth, facts are becoming the great victims because what would normally move politics is collection of facts, the organization of evidence and the construction of an argument which has become very difficult when you’re able to find a way to use an alternate reality to construct your own confirmation bias about what you want to believe ” He added.

Moreover, citizen journalism play an important role in highlighting human suffering in politically troubles countries, but there must be an alternative approach in doing so.

“Social media gave us more than we needed and is losing its effect ” Said Lina Qishawa presenter at Al Jazeera TV.

“Physiologically, at some point people will be desensitized towards shocking images and it will no longer be effective in changing the public opinion. Therefore, social media users and citizen journalists need to highlight the human suffering and suggest solutions instead of sharing images of the aftermath where nothing can be done.”


All rights reserved, Doha Centre for Media Freedom 2017

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