Merigian Studios


Bad News

The power of social media is incredible. It is almost as incredible as smoke signals. From my perspective, smoke signals are probably more reliable. In society today, anyone can take to the internet and write anything about anyone. Everyone enjoys a positive note about themselves. It seems as if we read something wonderful written by another we beam with pride and joy. Unfortunately, not all comments are nice. I do not know if there is a scientific study analyzing the number of people a negative written comment will reach on social media. I believe it is more than those who write positive things.
Social media affects our lives, all our lives. Another phenomenon of social media is that those who grew up in the social media age are much more sensitive to it than those who matured without it. Young people have committed suicide over comments on social media, believing their life was ruined after reading something disturbing about them.
Why is all this important? Because it affects our health in ways too numerous to count. Social media is a stressor. It provokes the same stress response as a predatory grizzly bear. Anyone can say anything unchecked and unsubstantiated about anybody. It gives authority to bloggers who are desperately trying to increase their readership to attract sponsors who advertise. It appears that bad news sells better than good news.
Regardless of your political persuasion, social media lends itself to abuses in dirty politics on a local and national platform. Any public figure running for office must endure the plethora of senseless insults of rivals. It brings an entirely new meaning to despicable behavior. Some consultants get paid to bash opponents in elections much the same way a publicist makes money by increasing the public’s perception of the same person. In my mind, Roger Stone was only second to Lee Atwater in successfully strategizing how to demonize a political opponent. The Chinese, North Koreans, and Russians are skilled at hacking into some social media platforms and spreading thousands of negative ads about those who oppose those countries and their political agendas. I am sure America does the same. There is an overwhelming number of Americans who do not believe what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The hypocrisy of modern American political culture is growing exponentially.
Our local community is as bad as our national one. Social media does not isolate misinformation to elections. A disgruntled employee can take to the social media networks in clever ways. I am aware of the following incident: A bartender at a local drinking establishment quit their job for many reasons. After realizing their actions in a moment of sobriety, they started talking to anyone who would listen about their story, especially bloggers. The bloggers got to work on social media and created many talking points, all of which were false. These bloggers are not journalists who commit to truth; they are sensationalists who fashion their work after the genre of the National Enquirer. Rumors spread throughout the social media communities. The owners and management were surprised and distressed. They could not defend themselves in public due to the private nature of their ex-employee’s actions related to the employee. Owners and management can easily quell any non-employee related rumor by revealing the truth about the situation, but the same does not apply to employee sensitive information shared publicly. Today, the rumors continue. In the past, entrepreneurs welcomed any press - good or bad. Time will tell if that adage still applies.
The Federal and State laws in Tennessee tie the hands of truth. Bloggers have the advantage if they choose to spew hate and chaos. Some of them refuse to move off a position, even when they are proven wrong. Laws need to be established to punish those who take to social media to reveal misinformation without checking independent sources. If monetary damages occur as a result of the misinformation, the blogger or bloggers should all be culpable — the bar where the employee quit was vandalized several times in the past. The owners anticipate more destruction of the property.
For those who use social media to keep everyone informed on their lives, keep up the good work. For those who see social media to right a wrong, serve justice or a way to hurt someone or some business, think again. What goes around comes around. When it comes around, be aware that lies linger for years. Misinformation is bad news no matter how you slice it.


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