Text messaging, email, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Flickr, and other social media have made high level literacy more important than ever in all our lives. We could choose what, when, and whether to read in a book, magazine or newspaper or look at TV or a video; now we are bombarded with text and images through internet devices.
When a person lives in Newfoundland and Labrador, analysis of content and graphics written about the province becomes a consuming interest because of the amount of misinformation that has been published in various formats about the province. Newfoundland has a small population and is in a relatively remote area; as a result, it is not well known. When reports in various formats are given about the province, its life style, and its people, I immediately check for factual accuracy, weighted words, and visual cues. Over the past few years, the quality of reporting has improved, because people have become more familiar with the province due to advances in communication technology; however, incorrect information and misinformation takes a long time to overcome.
The level of misinformation about this province has offered a tremendous advantage for judging the veracity of information presented on all topics and all places. Because I am so used to examining information written about our province, I have picked up the habit of looking at other material in a similar way. Weighted words, misleading visuals, and sweeping generalizations jump off the screen (or the page.) The extent to which people are willing to believe anything that is published, in print or electronically, never ceases to amaze me.
Today, while much of the information received through social media is from acquaintances, business associates, and friends that we have chosen to follow, advertisers and propagandists are surging [the term is used deliberately] into Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Are we prepared for this onslaught?
In the past, product advertising was much less targeted. It was assigned to certain print publications or TV programming based on less clearly defined data such as age group or perceived socio-economic group. In social media, advertising can be much more targeted based on very specific demographics and interests.
Propaganda is much more dangerous. Lurking in your Facebook, in your email attachments, and/or your Tweets can be people who are deliberately spreading propaganda, usually filled with misinformation, weighted words, and selected visuals which convey hatred and/or contempt for selected races, groups of people, or ideas.
Over the next few weeks, I will be presenting a series on this topic. Meanwhile, see my Twitter list “News and Commentary”twitter.com/eracose/news-commentary. The list [which is of necessity slanted towards Newfoundland and Canada] contains members with different and often opposing points of view. Though examining all, hopefully “truth” will become evident. If you would like to have your Tweets added to the list, please Tweet or email.