Living in the information age is not all it’s cracked up to be. We are constantly bombarded with stories, but I fear we are not always being fed the truth.
Recent events have highlighted the ways in which our media bubbles reinforce our world views. Take the coronavirus. Since news of the pandemic broke and the world began to grapple with its realities, there have been conflicting reports on its severity, the mortality rates, and most importantly, how best to combat the virus. On the one hand, we had disastrous reports from places like Italy and New York, urging the rest of the world to take heed of their overburdened health care systems and shut down. On the other hand, we had leaders downplaying the severity of the outbreak and insisting COVID-19 isn’t much worse than the seasonal flu.
Our latest info wars about coronavirus have involved whether to open schools in the fall for in-person learning. No matter what your position, you can find experts and studies to back up your opinions. The outcry from desperate parents on the one hand is met with resistance from the frightened teaching community on the other. Searching for answers involves wading through a morass of conflicting theories. We are flying blind, yet many of us are certain we know what the best course of action is.
Even with so-called news – that is, factual reporting of real events – we can find stories tailor made for our political and social stances. The unrest in Portland, Oregon, and other big cities is a perfect example. Conservative media outlets portray the protests as lawless nightmares of left-wing anarchists bent on destroying the American way. Left-leaning media depict outrageous militaristic and abusive behavior on the part of police and federal agents against unarmed and defenseless protesters. We can’t even trust the images we see with our own eyes because they are selected with a particular bias.
Lately my husband and I have been arguing about voting by mail, him insisting that voter fraud is a huge problem in America while I argue that reports of so-called fraud are exaggerated by Republicans bent on voter suppression. We are, of course, certain we are right and can trot out stories to bolster our claims. It’s just exhausting.
As a responsible citizen and thinking person, I try my best to stay informed. But with so much information out there, it is a constant and thankless task.