Intercultural Extraneity

The era of fake news

This post explores how meaning is negotiated and created. To do so, it examines a meme and includes at least one alternative interpretation. It also reflects on the cognitive bias that can affect how we generate and disseminate meaning in our own social networks.

First of all, the reason why I chose this meme in particular in a sea of other memes about coronavirus is that, above all, I find it funny, but at the same time, very accurate and relatable. Unfortunately, we are still battling the coronavirus pandemic, and it seems we will do so for a couple more months. However, it will, sooner or later, be over (hopefully). Then we will be left with a lengthy list of deep problems, such as economic recession, anti-vaccination movements, poverty, etc. Another interesting thing that probably won’t make much sense to our descendants is how this pandemic started and spread so quickly throughout the world. During the course of the past couple of months, we have witnessed many funny scenarios brought about by this pandemic, such as the toilet paper or flour shortage across many countries – and all that because, allegedly, somebody in China ate a bat, huh? Looking back from such a perspective gives us quite an interesting and divergent point of view on this whole battle against Covid-19.

Moreover, within the last few months, we have come across many, sometimes even ridiculous conspiracy theories regarding the cause and potential goals of this pandemic, which many people tend to believe in. That is why I have found a rather gripping video explaining a number of those theories and their backgrounds.

Be that as it may, it is inevitable that some people will have PTSD, or traumas from this battle with an invisible enemy, which is why I think it is of utmost importance to keep our chins up and stay positive as much as we can, as this, like everything else, will eventually come to an end.

What is the message?

I believe this meme reminds us of the fact that, despite our differences, we are all humans, regardless of our race, nationality or culture. We are all in this combat against coronavirus together. Even though this pandemic originated in China, it quickly spread to the rest of the world, and I think that was inevitable, as we live in a world where everything is connected and intertwined. This is the first situation in a long time that managed to unite the whole world, making us all fight the common enemy through shows of solidarity, lifesaving health messages and entertainment during lockdown.

What goes without saying?

It goes without saying that sometimes there is no use in finding someone to blame simply because it will make us feel better, without actually helping us solve the problem. Rather, we need to take action and united defeat the enemy.

How can its symbolic content be interpreted in a different way, through a different lens?

If we look at this meme through a different lens, we might come to a conclusion about the human nature. Toilet paper shortage during the first wave of this pandemic is a very interesting psychological phenomenon that shows us that some basic instincts for survival, just like the ones our ancestors had, still live in this modern society.

Reflecting on the article “Biases Make People Vulnerable to Misinformation Spread by Social Media”

The widespread dissemination of misinformation in social media has received a lot of attention, especially now when we are learning how to live with coronavirus pandemic. Fake news, spam, or hate speech are largely created and easily shared because of the openness and timelessness of social media platforms, which all brings about some very unprecedented challenges. Many people find it very hard to detect misinformation, which is why we have many cases of unintentionally-spread misinformation. Sometimes, social media users contribute to such propaganda because they gullibly trust information sources, such as family, friends, social media influencers etc. In such cases, the intention is not to spread false information, but rather to try to inform other social media users, like their friends. Whether we want to admit it or not – social media are an almost unavoidable part of our society now— but we cannot say with certainty that it is the most reliable news source. Being able to identify fake news on your social media feed is crucial to being a responsible and informed internet user. I don’t find it that difficult to stop and think critically for a moment before clicking “share” and contributing to this vicious circle. Having a healthy level of curiosity for what we read on our homepage and understanding how social media work is always beneficial, not only for us but for the whole society as well. That is why I believe social media platforms should be approached with some thought and consideration, in order to become more media-savvy and improve your ability to spot fake news. There are certain questions which can be useful in our battle against misinformation spread – is this post reputable, or does it cite reputable sources? Why is it valuable to the account that shared it? Is this information reasonable?


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