Category Archives: dilemmas

Misinformation, confrontation and the internet

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I’m not a confrontational kind of person. Having to tell someone they are wrong about something usually leads to a kind of sick feeling in my stomach and anxiety that plagues me for days. My usually approach when people are misinformed is just to let them be wrong, I figure their misinformed state is not my problem. Plus, most people don’t actually want their minds changed anyway. Our confirmation biases are such that I could throw mountains of evidence to the contrary at them and they wouldn’t believe me, preferring to rely on the one source that tells them what they want to hear.

Yet more and more often I am finding myself in situations where I feel compelled to challenge the information being provided and it usually involves people posting misinformation online. I’m trying to figure out why. I don’t know if it is because the posting of misinformation is more frequent, whether what is being posted is more blatantly false, or whether the misinformation is more harmful. There is a lot of stuff out there at the moment that seems almost designed to stir up hate and by generating hate to increase the power and influence of certain groups of people who are promising action.

I am struggling with this one a little bit, because a part of me wants to say that I have no moral obligation regarding other people’s ignorance. I want to be able to say that everyone has an obligation to be aware of their own biases and to check the accuracy of information before they forward it on or rely on the information to form opinions. But…in saying that am I just indulging my own preference for non-confrontation? Is it something that I actually do myself? I know I try to, but like a lot of people I don’t always have time.

There are certainly some situations where I would be morally obliged to inform people of their misinformed state. For example, if a person was under the impression that they were about to drink a tasty drink but I knew it was poison I would generally think I am obliged to tell them its poison. Is the obligation to tell them any less just because the harms from the misinformation are less imminent or felt by society as a whole?

If I do have an obligation to correct the misinformed, how much time, effort and energy am I required to spend on it? Given the amount of misinformation out there at the moment, it would be a full-time job. More than a full time job and tricky because I am probably wrong just as often as everyone else. I think that is part of the problem, people are coming across vast amounts of information everyday and they need some way of deciding what to believe. Usually people just go with their guts, or with a source they trust. The problem is our guts are often wrong and the people we think are trustworthy are playing us for fools.

So, after that rather lengthy ramble I am no closer to a solution. It’s not really one of those things that one person can actually fix on their own. It needs a critical mass of people to change their behaviour. All I can do as an individual is set the truth as the standard I aim for and hope that enough people come along for the ride.

 

 

 

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Walking to Work

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I have a 15 to 20 minute walk from the train station to the office every week day morning (and back again in the evenings). How long it takes usually depends on how many other people are walking the same route and how many traffic lights I hit. I like to kid myself that it counts as exercise, even though I am not even raising a sweat. Occasionally though, the walk throws me a curve ball. This week I had two of them.

The first was a guy lying on the ground at a bus stop. Literally just lying there, flat-out like a plank. At first glance it looks like he was dead, he was that still. So here’s the question. Do I stop and give him a nudge and ask if he’s alright? No one else is stopping, there are two guys sitting next to him on a park bench who don’t even seem the slightest bit concerned and what if he is just a homeless guy who’s quite happy having a sleep on the ground? Well not happy, but that’s the best place he’s got and he’d rather sleep than be woken up.

I’d like to think that I am the kind of person who would stop and help someone in need, but in reality I’m probably not. I’m one of those people who’d end up on the news after heartlessly stepping over the dead person on the street. Mostly because I’m usually so far away with the fairies that I wouldn’t even notice that they were there. But this week I’ve noticed ‘out like a plank’ guy and I kind of feel I should do something, but I’m not sure and I’m curious as to why the bench guys haven’t done anything. Maybe they have already checked and know he’s quite happy lying there? Was he lying there when they sat down or did he lie down there afterwards? Does anyone actually sit down next to a guy lying on the ground without checking on him first? Somehow that seems so much worse than walking by. Not that someone doing worse makes my badness any better, but I take the salves to my conscience where ever I can get them.

Thankfully just as I am almost past still thinking – should I stop, or not – the guy woke up and started to stand up and resolved my dilemma for me. It left me with the sense that I am really a bad person because I wasn’t actually going to stop.

The second curveball was this.

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It wasn’t there last week. For a moment I briefly held the thought that the government was being lovely and investing in public art, and then I went and had a closer look. According to the plaque it’s not new. It’s just been moved. So instead of investing in public art they are taking art they already have and plonking it down in the middle of where people walk. It smacks a little bit of shuffling papers on your desk so your boss thinks you’re working.

Ono a more positive note I am actually doing stuff, I have been sewing and have finished three table runners in the last week. Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to do with them.