This is the kind of insanity that happens when people get their information from social media.
Time the word ‘social’ got looked at, increasingly used to do the opposite, to tear our social fabric, the pact that binds us, apart.
I’m more and more convinced “social media” is a cancer. It’s incredible that kind of stuff goes unpunished. I’d expect authorities to sue FB to recuperate damages. The cost incurred by the fire department in the immediate response, the cost incurred by police during investigation, the damages to the cell provider along with replacement costs, etc. The whole shebang plus a hefty punitive fine on top. It’s not FB’s fault when somebody spouts nonsense, but it is their fault that rather than stop the spread, they prefer to profit from its proliferation. I can’t see the US or the UK doing something like that, but I’d absolutely love to watch the French pull it off.
If there was such a thing as media malpractice, people who have been harmed would at least be able to sue for damages.
You know, I’m perfectly aware this is a dangerous slope. I wouldn’t fault a newspaper for printing somebody’s twisted views or a TV station for interviewing a crackpot. But companies like FB and Twitter are actively encouraging the creation and spread of obviously false and damaging information and then profiting off it big time. They have built a business model around deceit and lies. And I don’t see why we a society choose to just roll over and let that happen to us.
We don’t. The solution is that if enough of society feel as you do and want it to stop, they just stop using FB and Twitter.
The problem you pose goes away.
I was never on FB or Twitter in the first place. Yet I am still affected by all the crap they promote. I have a problem with that. I also have serious doubts there is a free market solution to a problem brought on to us by what is essentially a multinational monopoly. I feel there is little I can do about that myself other than try to point it out to others. Apologies if getting carried away I start preaching to the choir.
I think it was on Abe Lincoln’s FB page…
All of us are fools some of time,
some of us are fools all the time.
I “deleted” myself from FB at least 8 years ago, but I seem to remember that the page said if I ever logged in again, all my info/posts/collected data would still be there.
This kind of insanity is, unfortunately, nothing new in American (and world) history, social media or not. US history is replete with conspiracy theories that spread widely and wildly through the public. In 1826, for example the “mysterious disappearance of William Morgan, a bricklayer in Western New York” led to a massive popular anti-Masonry movement (Morgan had been a Freemason and was supposedly about to reveal their secrets) which culminated in an organized political party – the Anti-Masonic Party – whose candidate actually got 7 electoral votes in the 1832 presidential election.
There are lots of other examples like this.
We’ve always been nuts.
Absolutely true, but I think we should always be aiming to improve when it comes to things like this. We don’t put up with many standard behaviors from even 30 years ago, much less 200 years ago.
Oh, absolutely. Nonetheless, being aware of the long history of conspiracy theories turns that improvement conversation from ‘social media has made us crazy, we should ban it/regulate it/etc’ to ‘we’ve had this tendency for a long time – how do we deal with that human psychology?’ And it makes it more likely that we will actually figure out a way to improve.
To this very astute analysis I would like to include the absolute disrespect and disregard many of the people mentioned above have for science. A friend of a friend sent around a message about how mega doses of vitamin C taken with a heaping tablespoon of turmeric will prevent Covid C. I’ve heard and read about many such recommendations.
Excellent example. Any reputable newspaper would most likely not publish something like that without at least checking with a physician or the CDC/WHO guidelines. But social media allows spreading such garbage within minutes to hundreds of thousands of people. If all readers were well educated and smart, probably not an issue. But in the real world this is a major problem.
The internet put this huge amount of knowledge at our fingertips. It has probably in the history of mankind never been easier for Joe Sixpack to get ahold of good information. Yet reality has rendered the exact opposite situation. People think they know or understand something because they have consumed garbage ‘information’ from somewhere instead of listening to and heeding expert advice. To me personally this is so frustrating. The internet would have enabled us like no other generation before. There’s really no excuse not to exploit these awesome technical possibilities for true good.
It’s not just Joe Sixpack. Big names like Robert F. Kennedy Junior and Gwyneth Paltrow have huge social media followers, get lots of coverage in the press and are also very influential among “educated” people:
I’ve received so many of these, usually with a “just watch this YouTube video, it’s only 20 minutes!” that I had to put up a post on my practice’s web site explaining why it isn’t going to happen:
I’m even willing to concede that some of the folks may turn out being right, but they have to be right in a manner that doesn’t put my patients at risk.
Ron, this is a great summary of the science vs. social media dilemma, and you’ve got great resources and advice on your website.
Here’s just one recent example of what can happen when people put their trust in non medical advice during this crisis:
Except that in this case, nobody gave this person any advice, medical or otherwise. He heard the President express optimism about a particular drug, saw that the same chemical is used as a part of an aquarium medicine, and decided to consume it without consulting anybody.
Competition will be stiff in this year’s Darwin Awards.
I’ve seen some of this recently on my local Nextdoor network, where someone had pointed out that there were men working on the cell tower near my home during the current lockdown. No links were provided to back up the fears, people were just told to go look on Google or YouTube.
Unfortunately, this hysteria has been going around since the first radio transmissions, and gets whipped up again with each new technology advance.