Media is the problem, but also the solution

In a time of such division within our society, it’s simple to just continue to think you’re right and everything’s okay. But social media and the Internet have allowed us to ostracize each other, pick our own facts, and develop blocks of people completely enthralled by their Internet pact, like the one that elected Donald Trump.

The CEO of Upworthy, Pariser is a left-wing political and social activist concerned mostly with the internet and creating “meaningful” viral content. And his appearance at the SXSW Conference to talk on the failures of social media and what we can do about it, says a lot about his strong feelings for activism, especially when concerning the reform of the Internet – which is such a wild thing.

The Internet has fostered many great things, yes. But democratization of information is not necessarily a good thing. It will always dangerously teeters between being helpful and being dangerous to society. The Internet doesn’t choose what is true and what isn’t. Society has allowed the Internet to become a vessel for niches.

The world today is divided into tiny factions. The online world has, in a way, nationalized itself. The Internet and the media now works more like a 12th century European hells cape of nation-states than of one unified society. It’s brought us closer together, and today we see it driving us apart. But there’s a way to perceive things.

The way that we perceive the world is so shaped by the media we consume that it brought a person into power the threatens its very existence. And it’s because the nation that was created through a giant “filter bubble,” as Praiser calls it, won.

Praiser calls this “filter bubble” an “urgent crisis.” Increasingly online we live in our own personal information environment. It’s a kind of membrane of personalizing algorithms that tell us what to look at, what to buy, and advertises to us in a more effective way.

But it’s a passive choice, not an active one. Because of that we don’t know what we’re not supposed to look at. We’re all tiny little nations, with our own information and society within the real one.

What happened in the last 5 years is that the whole system has become self aware and self conscious. They’re creating media to be sorted, not the other way around. And it’s specifically for the purpose of amplifying and increasing these little nations we live in.

It’s a journalist’s job today to figure out how we can bring the trust back to us, and away from actual fake news like Breitbart. We need to get better at sourcing and fact checking. Call our untruths when we see them. It seems rational and the world should work that way. But it doesn’t. People don’t choose the truth when given the choice.

But Pariser says there’s a way to fix all of this. With four easy steps.

Journalists have to rebuild trust and engender it before ever claiming to know the “facts.” It may be true, it may be a fact, but people don’t care. They will not listen to an outlet that has lost its trust for whatever reason.

We need to stories that replace and build schema, not facts. The way we interpret facts. We shouldn’t reinforce existing perceptions. Instead of fact checking facts, replace the underlying schema around that topic.

We have to activate new little nations of truth. When our identity is secure, he said, we’re much better at facing new ideas and new people. And by far we have to know our vulnerability.

It’s a dark time. And Pariser ended his speech on that note. But there is hope if we try to change peoples minds by allowing them to trust us again.

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