Can I Make Up My Own Mind?
by Dan Schafer
2020 is an election year in the USA. With shadows of 2016 in the background, will the 2020 elections be free of foreign influence? We, the users of social media, don’t have much control over what gets recommended to us by folks or companies who pay a fee to have their products or views promoted. But most of us feel pretty confident that we can decide easily enough whether what is being promoted is relevant for us or not. But what could be the case is that marketers perhaps know us better than we think – not that they really know us, but they have been able to statistically profile us as having certain views. It is as though they come up alongside us and say, “I know you enjoy repairing old cars. I think you might like this car wax I am selling.”
Actually most of us who have been on social media for a while get used to having Facebook or Twitter or whichever other we use trying to suggest to us one thing or another, and we just carry on doing what we wanted to do. But at times someone’s post stirs a chord in us and we want to pursue it – whether it is some news that grabs our interest or some musician who is exceptionally talented, we want to read it or hear it or watch it.
I think this is where we all need to learn to think. If we are reflective at all we can recognize the kinds of topics that “suck us in”, things that we feel compelled to know more about, whether it is something negative where our instincts want to see that person or group painted blacker than we already regard them, or if it is something positive that confirms our tribe is right. Learning to think means asking myself, “Do I really want to fill my head and heart with more of that?” Even, perhaps I should ask myself, “Could I check some other source that has a different slant on it?” Learning to think sometimes means taking some time to understand why other folks think the way they do.
Personally, I know the facts often seem so plain I can’t imagine how others can be off believing “alternative facts,” if there can be such a thing. But then is perhaps a time to go and check another news source to see if there is something I am missing, or perhaps my diet of information has been too one-sided.
The real issue for all of us who are able to vote is, how well am I informed? Have I taken time to ensure that the information upon which I am making my choice is factual, and is not being fed to me by some bot (short term for a robot) on the internet, with its actual origin untraceable – at least by those of us who are just internet consumers? Sometimes these feeds can be designed to make us feel we have some inside information that others don’t have. I shudder to think I could be sucked into that.
So it seems to me that our issue comes down to, knowing the real situation. I need to read, watch, or listen to information from sources that I consider contrary to my outlook and point of view. I don’t want to get into the rut of listening only to CNN, CNBC, Fox News or any of other news/opinion providers. If I get Facebook feeds, I have to either let them go over my head or take time to check them out. Also I don’t want to get into the rut of reading only one source. I will read another one that doesn’t agree with all of my biases. If we are thinking and becoming informed we can quietly speak with authority, and those who are interested in the truth will listen.
The USA is still a very unique place. Let us do our part to put her down a course that keeps her that way.