A lot of people have been blaming the fake news phenomena on the overall stupidity of, well, everyone, but that’s not the whole story. Motherboard reported on a study published last month in scientific journal Nature Human Behavior by Xioayan Qiu and colleagues that gets to the bottom of this. They figured out that the real issue with fake news and its rapid viral spread of google and social media platforms is
a function of the quality of information received, and our ability to absorb it. They’re saying we get so barraged by information, headlines, videos, etc. that the brain literally cannot process it all with the depth that’s needed to determine reality from fiction. This is extremely important since
there have been very real political consequences from fake news; there have been very real political consequences from having a divided attention and an overloaded mind.
Lead investigator Qiu bestows us with some words from John Milton: “Four centuries ago, the English poet John Milton argued that in a free and open encounter of ideas, truth prevails. Since then the concept of
a free marketplace of ideas has been used to support
free speech policies and even applied to the study of scientific research.”
Motherboard also reported that, “Previous research has demonstrated that viral memes are likely to spread given the right combination of social network structure and limited attention spans.”
So do we have to improve our attention spans or
limit the amount of information we’re consuming? Who’s responsibility is it? Some say that Facebook should clean up the feed, removing the countless bots and fake accounts that repost fake news according to software analytics. But the issue here is
that we can’t leave the fate of the future in the hands of Facebook, or Google analytics. We have to take control of
our attention spans, by taking control of our information intake. We can’t be victims to cat gifs and minion memes any longer. Right??