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Fact-Checking My Facebook Feed

After a few hours of post-convention surfing last Monday I unfollowed people on Facebook the first time ever. Historically if I disliked what someone said or did, I have unfriended and possibly blocked. Friend or not-friend. It’s a binary. I like binaries.

I also like variety. Big picture, many lenses. I like seeing things that challenge my worldview. I find shifting perspective to be a neat exercise. Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t enjoy being surrounded by what I already know and believe. There’s nothing to learn there.  So I rarely unfriended, and never over differences of opinion.

The kink in the system is that I now use social media as a professional channel as well as personal connection.

The more I use FB professionally, the more  public-only acquaintances I collect.

It felt awfully harsh to unfriend someone who was never a true-held bosom friend to begin with, but I needed to clean up. My FB feed has been increasingly flooded with posts that deeply offend my sensibilities. Thus I’m giving the unfollow option a whirl.

Now, I didn’t do it to get rid of conservative posts or liberal ones. Tthere’s a lot of territory between an echo chamber and a hostile,  unhealthy life environment. See above re: many lenses.

No, what had to go were the posts that offended me as an analyst, a scientist, and a rhetoric competitor trained in the simple art of reasoned debate. The slippery slope into the contra-factual swamp got a lot steeper this year.  I’m clinging to higher ground by eliminating the stench of bad data.

Wondering if I unfollowed you? Well. Did you knowingly & un-ironically share material from white supremacy/socialist-propaganda/conspiracy theory sites/false news/parody sites and present it as factual?  Did you leave said material up after verified rebuttals from respected sources were posted to the comment thread? Did you defend lies by insisting opinions were persuasively equivalent to facts?

I only unfollowed someone when I saw those intellectual failures committed multiple times within a few days, and it was still a depressingly high number of people.

I understand viewpoints that oppose mine. Empathy and critical thinking are skills I practice daily. I can see from other positions. I respect differences of opinion.

But when opinion is stapled to horrific bullshit labeled and defended because “it’s from a reputable source” when the source is anything but reputable? That’s when my emotional wheels come right off.

someone-is-wrong-on-the-internet I’m tired of being a spectator at a parade of willful ignorance. I do not have the energy to run around placing little fact towels over bouncy, dangling embarrassments posted by acquaintances. I cannot afford to be the internet’s unpaid correction coverage service.

I’ve tried, I have. But from now on I will avert my eyes from the ugly naked lies and say good day. Good DAY. No mess, no fuss, no awkwardness in comment threads.

I am also removing contrafactual posts other ways. F.B. Purity is a useful extension, and I filter out a lot of sites that pitch their sticky, smelly lies at the interwebs. Articles from those sites need to be read fully and carefully and their sources independently verified before sharing, and I don’t have the energy.

I added to my FBP filter  list recently with the help of this:  False, Misleading, Clickbaiting & Satirical “News” Sources.  (edit 11/22 12:00 CST: the list itself has been pulled and is being expanded & revised — I recommend bookmarking the google doc. If you would like the original texts I copied, email me at pub dot rigger at gmail dot com.)

The list is neither exhaustive nor neutral, but you’ll find examples for from the left, the right, the blue, the red, and everything in between. Some of the sites are on there for being biased rather than false, so YMMV, but many of them are run by outright lying liars.

I also always suggest checking unfamiliar “news” sites against  and vetting specific stories on (What’s that? Snopes has a liberal bias? Blah,blah, bullshit, blah. Check your sources there. Yeah, no.)

The big problem is both sites are well behind the news distribution curve, overwhelmed by the seething floods of misinformation. By the time they post investigative results, the misinformation is everywhere being trumpeted as FACT-FACT-FACT!

I won’t be party to that, and my eyeballs can no longer bear it. So I’ve purged and I’m filtering…but the mobile app doesn’t filter.

So I’m begging, here. Read first. Check second. Wait third. THINK. If an article passes all 4 hurdles, then share. I know Google and Facebook have claimed they’re going to do a better job of curation and control, but if you believe that, I have some prime waterfront land in Tibet to sell you.

Oh–if you want to see how distorted the same information can get in a real echo chamber even before misinformation is added to the mix, take a look at this article:  Red Feed Blue Feed

It’s problematic in some ways, and not representative of any real social media feed, but it does a good job highlighting polarization of perspective. And it emphasizes the importance of thinking critically before dismissing or distributing news.

Okay. Done ranting now. Can we please endeavor to be more excellent to each other?

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