The other morning, I saw a tweet from Chris Hardwick (who is a hilarious human that I don’t know personally because he’s kinda famous). I followed the link because the idea that a Republican Representative from Alabama introducing actual legislation to make pi=3 was almost unbelievable.
So I read through the article on the tiny phone screen and caught just enough in the tone to know research would be required until I was sold. I tend toward skepticism with most information, especially when said info comes from the internets. After I pulled up a laptop, I found, to my relief, that the article was on a comedy section of the main site. A quick search through the U.S. House of Reps (a remarkably user-friendly site, which made me happy for at least some of what my taxes fund) substantiated my credulity – the bill defied discovery through all possible means.
The satire was excellently done, so I don’t fault the author for pushing me to search. In fact, I applaud his writing ability. It’s been awhile since I’ve laughed that hard, while still questioning the factual element of the writing before my eyes. It also helped as a perfect example when one of the students asked about satire.
But I know that some people fell for the satire. And I wonder if we tend to believe what we read more now than in previous times simply because of the source. I wonder if something in the tone and description in the article hadn’t tipped me off, if I hadn’t read as closely, would I have fallen for the satire as well? And I wonder if those who fell for the satire were as attentive because the originating site had the main address of the Huffington Post.
I’ve been wondering more about credibility, and our ability to evaluate it, online recently. With the Japan disaster(s) and everything occurring in the Middle East, I find myself turning more to the internets to obtain the information on everything that I actually want.
Televised news has almost consistently failed me, which forces me to other sources. I don’t have the patience to wait for the printed newspaper to arrive, so I check the online editions. Twitter helps point me in helpful directions, but only because Andy Carvin (of NPR) does a phenomenal job curating his twitter feed with both sides of the story and pointing out unconfirmed reports by asking for confirmation.
Despite the sources I’ve found helpful, I still find myself wondering if everything is happening the way that I see it. Are the Libyan people as justified in their actions as I think? Is the Bahraini Royal Family as unjust as they seem? How many people are actually involved in these movements?
I don’t know. For the few names that consistently pop on my twitter feed, the movements seem to encompass quite a number of people in the countries with revolutions. But I know my perspective is skewed by the fact that boundaries of the world have shrunk to fit in my pocket. Everything appears immediate because I can literally connect with the other side of the world regardless of my current location. My instincts tell me that what I’m hearing from my small world is an accurate representation.
And I find my instincts are essential in judging the importance, the factualness, and the truth of a story. If I could not trust my instincts, at least most of the time, I would utterly lack the ability to function in this new world.
I suppose what I wonder most, though, is if I am alone in this edging on existential crisis that occurs as I interact with more of the world in less space.