Finding the Fact via Social Media
The news flooded in quickly as I received an alert on my cell phone about the violent incident at Ohio State University last week. I quickly contacted my friends who work for or attend OSU. One friend mentioned that her class had been on lock-down, yet they weren’t sure what exactly was happening because distorted information was spreading so quickly via cell phones and social media that they couldn’t decipher what was factual about the situation.
How is social media and the internet aiding our work toward truth, peace and social justice?
Growing Up Online
As someone who has grown up with the internet, I want to believe that it has advanced our society, has given access of information and resources to numerous individuals, and has benefited the common good. Often, I do feel that way. I’m thankful for the ability to have information, news and research at my fingertips, I am thankful that I can connect with family and friends over social media, and I am especially thankful for the Facebook Safety Check tool that allows individuals to mark themselves safe in dangerous situations like the OSU incident or Hurricane Matthew earlier this fall.
Yet I am often discouraged by what I see on social media, especially information that is spread like wildfire but is not based in fact. According to a 2016 Pew study, 44% of Americans get their news from Facebook, and Facebook has faced a great deal of scrutiny lately for its flood of fake news and the potential influence that information had on the 2016 election.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
The internet holds great power when it comes to organizing individuals and advocating for social justice. It has never been easier to gather information about issues, sign petitions, and collaborate with other advocates across the world. But with power, comes great responsibility, and a prudent balance is needed.
Our charism encourages us to preach truth, and as Dominicans, we understand that study and reflection is central to finding truth. Let us continue to encourage others to seek resources grounded in fact. Perhaps it’s time for us to log-off, shutdown, and unplug for a few moments as we continue to process recent events and current injustices. May we all continue preaching with truth that is based in prayer, in study, and in our community experience which we can then share with others through various forms of communication, including the internet.