By: Phil Walter
Contributor

By: Phil Walter
Contributor

Several weeks ago, I was surfing through the TV channels and found a show of interest regarding today’s access to social media. Fareed Zakaria of Global Public Square was discussing the impact of social media on how it affects our beliefs, values and attitudes. Many times I’ve heard comments and positions taken on an event simply because it was on the Internet. A timely joke is “It must be true. It was on the Internet.”
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become a big source of how people get their information. In an article in the Bloomberg Press by Cass R. Sunstem called “How Facebook Makes us Dumber” it points out the following: “….proliferation of biased narratives, fermented by unsubstantiated rumors, mistrust and paranoia.” It also discusses a practice called trolling, which is the creation of highly provocative messages. “Many mechanisms cause false information to gain acceptance, which in turn generates false beliefs that once adopted… are highly resistant to correction,” Sunstem’s article continued. The Internet has been a major influence on people’s views going into the political season.
The nation has been in a gridlock for many years due to a political divide. Back in the 1990s, our leaders in Washington identified themselves as liberal, conservative or moderate. Out of some 500 plus lawmakers, moderates comprised around 100. Today you would not find many, if any, who identified themselves as moderates. This has caused a polarization to the left and right with little middle ground left for compromise. Compromise is now a dirty word politically since it means you have compromised your basic values.
Another favorite term being thrown around is political correctness, meaning it is non-discriminatory, un-biased, neutral and non-partisan opinion. To me, when someone prefaces a statement with “I know this is not politically correct, however” they are giving themselves carte blanche to be biased, mean-spirited and controversial or say something that crosses the line with the majority of people. No wonder this upcoming election is against the Washington establishment. How can you be for something that is dysfunctional, mean spirited, finger pointing and has disdain for any view that is not in lock step with yours?

Most of us have a go to TV channel for the news to keep you informed with current events. I sometimes turn to another source that generally has a different point of view. I can’t believe how different and 180 degrees opposed the commentators and reports are on the same current events. There isn’t a middle of the road or moderate TV news source. You are left to take one side or the other, which fortifies and validates your biases. The story continues with radio talk shows, website and the printed media. Everywhere we turn, the world seems polarized into two camps, which have little common ground to move the country forward.

So let me finish on a positive note. We can all do better by being a good listener to other people’s point of view. That means respecting a person even if you don’t agree with their opinion. It is the other person’s reality. Try to look at the facts rather than make an emotional I think or I feel decision. This can really be difficult if your family traditions collide with your perspective. Not everything you hear in the political debates is true. Just because someone has the nerve to say it on TV doesn’t mean it’s correct. There are sources that fact-check candidates answers and rate them as true, false, partially true or false, and my favorite, “pants on fire.” So the best way to combat the avalanche of misinformation is to be informed. This takes a bit of effort on your part but at least you will know why you believe something.