The article The Age of Unenlightenment by Robert Armstrong argues that fake news and social media have had a major influence on society’s stupidity today. Us humans are more reliable on the internet today. It has also lead us to believe that our opinion is what is true, and those who have different opinions are wrong. With fake news traveling around the internet like wildfire, it is hard to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Journalists have learned to shape their articles to target certain audiences, which makes each individual believe that what they believe in is veridical.
Social media has given hate groups a gateway to promote their ideology. For example, there are hundreds of white nationalist hate group pages, with thousands of followers swimming around Facebook. Many members posts pictures of themselves with a confederate flag on their personal pages to express their beliefs. In the article Facebook Is Letting White Nationalists Hate Groups Operate In The Open the author, Ace Owen, shares a few of hate group pages on Facebook and the number of followers they have. With the community that these individuals have been looking for being just a search away, it is feeding them power that what they stand for is factually correct. This correlates with Armstrong’s argument that what we see on social media supports our beliefs, we will automatically believe it is true.
The influence and the resources the internet has given us is something we wouldn’t have guessed would happen a decade ago. It has changed our lifestyles in a blink of an eye, that most haven’t yet realized. Many people would rather shop online and have their package delivered to them instead of grabbing their car keys and go to the store to buy the desired item. We interact with people more on the internet than in person, because it’s easier. It has also given many people easier access in landing careers, or improving in the career they have now. Specifically journalists, that now benefit from social media. Journalists are encouraged to give their audiences what they want, rather than telling them what they need to know. (Armstrong, 15)
Today, journalists target the most controversial topics and focus more on the satisfaction and number of reads from readers, rather than the actual facts. For example, Times Magazine’s issue of July 2018 has a cover of Donald Trump overlooking a little girl in distress with the caption saying, Welcome to America. The cover can be misleading to others, presenting that the girl is alone and separated from her family due to Trump. In reality, the little girl started crying when her mother had put her down, according to ABC 7 News. Times Magazine had taken the viral news of children being separated from their family at the border and made it into one of their covers. This has taken the attention of thousands of people around the country, which goes back to Armstrong’s claim that journalists show the audience what they want to see.
The internet as a whole has given individuals confidence that what they believe in and their opinions are facts based on what they see. People have control over what they can search, thus helps them find support for their beliefs. It also gives people control to search for those who do not agree with their opinion, easily picking up a fight instead of debating in a civil manner. This has given these individuals easy access to harass and attack others. we imagine ourselves as rugged cognitive individualists, growing our own intellectual food and living in mental houses built with our own hands. This is a dangerous error. (Armstrong, 5). What Armstrong means by this quote is that we base our educated thoughts with our own opinion.
We feed off of our own understanding which can blind us from what is right, and what is wrong. Social media is a platform that many people use to show a side of themselves that you would never expect to see in person. They say what they want, when they want, not thinking about any consequences because it’s just Twitter. Take Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3′ director James Gunn as an example. Based off of The Guardian’ article by Elahe Izadi and Abby Ohlheiser, offensive, inappropriate tweets from Gunn in 2009 had resurfaced this year where he had made jokes about rape and pedophilia. There were also sexist and homophobic tweets from him that were found not too long ago. Due to the findings, Disney decided to fire Gunn from his position as writer-director. This is the dangerous error Armstrong refers to in the quote.