Social Media — November 20, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Social Media’s False Face

Can we believe what is posted on Facebook and other social media sites?

By Mark Tatge

Social media has a growing credibility problem.

Fake restaurant reviews on Yelp. Fake followers on Twitter. And fake pages on Facebook. It has quickly gotten to the point  where everything  is being called into question.

During Hurricane Sandy, Twitter users circulated  fake storm photos and misinformation about storm damage. Many relied on social media for reports about the storm only to later learn that what they had read or circulated was untrue.

Social media was supposed to be the great equalizer – the ideal networking tool that connected individuals with similar interests who could then connect and pursue a common goal.

The argument went something like this: Old, established media is bad. It is biased and edited by people who don’t have society’s interests at heart.The Internet was the future. It broke the mold.  Information was no longer controlled by big, established media monopolies. Instead, everyone had a megaphone. There would be no bias, no filter – just raw information we could all use to our advantage.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

When it comes to the Internet,  no one can seem to agree on what is acceptable behavior. There are far too many people behaving badly. And too many people seem willing to stretch the truth or tell outright lies.

You don’t have to search far to find fake profiles being traded or sold. Celebrities are cultivating  fake followers. Individuals are being encouraged to “like” or comment on things they know nothing about.

It is safe to say that Internet  fakery is an epidemic. It is so bad that people have begun debating whether posting false information on Twitter should be a crime.

Even Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg is worried. The network suffers from an acute credibility problem. Zuckerberg is attempting to halt the spread of fake Facebook pages.   New York Times reporter Somini Sengupta says Facebook fakery calls into question the entire premise of the world’s largest social network.

After all. Facebook is supposed to be a place where people use their real identities to communicate with one other. Information loses its value when it turns out to be untrue.

But what does this say about our larger culture?

The Internet has become a place popular meeting place. Lies and half-truths are becoming an accepted part of the venue. Is this any different than the rest of American society? Take politics. People no longer believe what politicians have to say. Yet, we still vote these same individuals into office.

The question to examine here is whether the Internet is just symptomatic of a larger problem. As a society, we seem to  have a growing contempt for the truth.




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