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Social skills

At the JCB Fastrac product launch in the English Midlands a couple of weeks ago, I had the very pleasant opportunity to reconnect with a bunch of farm machinery writers and editors from England. They’re people I’ve met or written for in the past couple of decades doing this job. The opportunity to talk shop with these guys again was a real pleasure. In fact, Rory Day, editor of UK-based Classic Tractor magazine, and I closed down the hotel lounge talking machinery and editorial coverage of it until very late into the night, despite the need to be up early the next morning to actually get to events.

But I’m not naive enough to think that discussions of the abilities and history of various tractors and combines would have worked well as pickup lines if we’d been trying to meet women in that same lounge. The fact my wife frequently asks, “how can you think of so many things to write about farm tractors,” then shakes her head and walks away seems to be confirmation of that—as if I needed any.

So, why all of a sudden is my Twitter feed being inundated with a bunch of “Likes” from an apparent bevy of women, whose associated pictures unabashedly show most of their best attributes? I’m not sure exactly what sort of scams these “Likes” are attempting to entice me into, but I suspect they’re similar to those odd emails that frequently show up asking me to click on an embedded link. Usually they’re written in broken English.

That is the trouble with social media: you never really know who the authors of these random tweets and emails are and what they’re up to. Despite that, many people seem to take outrageous comments and statements posted online as Gospel; then they repeat and form opinions based on them. These platforms also give the nuts out there a much louder voice than they deserve to spout their nonsense.

Lately, one of the biggest nuts to do that seems to be Donald Trump. His tweets, coming at odd hours of the day, and those of his apparent supporters have been making outrageous claims without any real support to base them on. Many of them have shown up in my Twitter feed as re-tweets by some friends (which I’m getting a little frustrated with, especially considering these friends are Canadian and not involved in the U.S election).

Trump’s tweets suggest the media and who knows who else are colluding in one giant conspiracy. That notion would have been worthy of an episode of the old TV show X Files, but in reality they don’t seem to stand up to any critical analysis. And that’s not surprising at all.

Some of the tweets from others I’ve seen rail against the mainstream media for not reporting on the outrageous “facts” about Clinton they’ve uncovered. So, why wouldn’t mainstream media report on such things? After all, their job is to report on things that matter to society.

The biggest reason is that the accredited media are accountable for what they say. They have a duty to at least partially investigate the truthfulness of anything before they report on it. So far, the only newsworthy aspect of these public comments and tweets is the fact someone would actually say them out loud and expect them to be taken seriously.

These kinds of wild tweets highlight the risk of paying too much attention to today’s flood of social media content. Everyone gets to pass on their thoughts without the need to justify them with logical arguments. In many cases what’s posted online is no different than than those things you often hear at the local coffee shop. Even without any malicious intent, people who haven’t really been paying attention to the world around them in the way they should sometimes just repeat the silly gossip they hear.

Those of us who work for accredited media organizations use social media too. But we don’t use it to promote speculation or unfounded accusations. We use it to help make you aware of the information we have either in print or online that we’ve actually looked into. We’re putting our REAL names and our reputations behind what we’re telling you.

That’s the difference between social media and the real media so many people love to hate, especially when the news or content of what’s being reported on isn’t to their liking. No, we don’t always get it right. But we publicly correct our mistakes when we make them.

So I guess my point is this. By all means, use social media to pass on truthful, useful comments and as a source of information—but be a critical thinker! Don’t pass on the BS of the world, and take what you read with a healthy dose of skepticism until its verified.

And remember, if you want to hear or read information based on actual investigation and presented (usually) in a fair and accurate way, the real media is where you find that—not in random tweets form unknown sources.

Scott

About the author

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Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.

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