It’s On The Internet So It Must Be True

I had an interesting conversation this week with a couple of my Grade 8 students.  They were having a debate and using articles they had read on the internet as basis for the argument.  The funny thing was that they honestly believed that since it was published on the web, it had to be factual.

So we had a conversation about how the internet has become a great media information super hi-way……and how it has also become a misinformation super hi-way.  People can publish anything they want on the internet nowadays.  Heck, I’m doing it right now.

Don’t like testing?  You’ll find supporting articles on line.  In favour of even more testing?  You’ll find articles to the effect too.  There’s a little “self fulfilling prophecy” effect there.

It’s also easy to find yourself falling for the cognitive dissonance effect.  You find information that supports your views and regard this as the “factual” pieces and therefore disregard anything outside your belief system.  Few people (although they do exist out there) take in an opposing views for consideration.

You’ll see political interest and lobby groups doing it all the time.  One side will focus on articles that support their views while the opposition finds articles to argue the exact opposite.  When you break it down to it’s basic components, social media has become an excellent outlet for propaganda.

I hate Elf on a Shelf.  Anyone who knows me knows that I dislike the whole idea behind it. After being bombarded by friends telling me I just, “…had to get one!” and some flat out implying that my child would be missing out on a special part of Christmas by not having one, I was sick of it.  I made a bad decision.  I took my opinions to my Facebook page.  It all started with this simple status post:  “Am I the only one out there who is anti Elf on a Shelf?”

Holy cow did I open up a can of worms…..

I started up a monstrous debate on my Facebook wall and pretty soon friends who were like me and did not support the ideals of Elf on a Shelf were verbally sparring with my Elf on a Shelf friend lovers.  But what really got to me was watching my friends then post their own status updates and the people who responded to THAT.

One person, ironically enough, said, “When will people learn that social media isn’t a place for them to spout all their opinions.  People need to just keep their opinions to themselves!”  Although….ironically enough, she was just doing exactly what she said others shouldn’t be doing.  I would say that social media and the internet has actually inspired the opposite.  Anyone with a keyboard and access to the internet can now project their opinion 24/7 if they like.  Many do.

It’s hard to sort through all the information available on the web these days.  Facts vs Opinions, Truth vs Deception, Support For vs Support Against.

My grandmother used to say, “Never believe what you hear and only half of what you see.”  I’m thinking if she were still alive today and knew the capabilities on the internet she’d probably amend it to something like….

Never believe what you hear, half of what you see, and take what you read with a grain of salt.


About Cherra-Lynne Olthof

I've been a middle school teacher for my entire career (which began in 2001). Like my students, I too am a life long learner. My goals include helping my students to achieve their goals, support them in their learning, and to encourage them to think "beyond the grade".
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