“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
So many people nowadays garner their understanding about world events primarily from sources such as Facebook and Google. What this means in practice is a heavy reliance on ‘clickbaits:’ reports that are designed to appeal to people’s emotions and to encourage them to click on further links to draw them deeper into that particular web site. Clickbaits can be used to very good purpose – or otherwise! As this thought-provoking article by Katherine Viner, the editor-in-chief of the The Guardian demonstrates, clickbaits have become one of the primary ways by which post-truth beliefs (if one can call them such) have become established, despite their lack of depth or impartial analysis.
Katherine warns that this process is having a serious impact on our ability to access and assess where the truth lies in given situations. Apart from anything else, this means that there are fewer resources available for the kind of in-depth investigative reporting that is so necessary.
Interestingly, some parents in Silicon Valley are choosing to send their children to schools that ban computers and smart phones – and to show that learning is not necessarily improved by investing heavily in high tech media at the expense of other means of acquiring knowledge and wisdom.
NB: Often accused itself of being a vehicle for false reports, Facebook has offered the following tips to help people identify fake news. Links and hyperlinks beyond a starter article are a great way to learn and discover – but pray that was is shared has positive and truthful effects.