In what adds variety to an individual’s “news diet”.

In “How the Internet is Loosening Our Grip on the Truth”, Farhad Manjoo contemplates the benefits and issues of media on reality and our perception of it. Manjoo argues that the broad span of the internet allows for many different ideas to arise. This is a seemingly good quality before he considers how the internet is manipulated to the point where “there are now entire sites whose only mission is to publish outrageous, completely fake news online”. This “root of the problem” is reinforced by institutionalization, usage by people with political power and freedom for people to choose what they believe. Facebook, as mentioned in the essay, claims that its broad spectrum is what adds variety to an individual’s “news diet”. To counter this, Manjoo quotes Walter Quattrociocchi, an author of The Spreading of Misinformation Online, saying sites like Facebook and Google create “an ecosystem in which the truth value of the information doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether the information fits in your narrative”. In his argument, Manjoo is showing that while people have access to a variety of information, they choose not to view that variety because it doesn’t match what they believe. This issue that people have with conflicting information is how Manjoo argues the internet is really pulling us away from the truth. To really say anyone knows the “truth”, it should be important to know all sides, corners, nooks and crannies of a possible situation, and access to the internet is more like a temptation to avoid seeing the full picture than like an array of knowledge to be picked apart by users. However, there is even a problem when people see every component of a situation. In research that Manjoo references, there is evidence that “two people with differing points of view can look at the sime picture, video or document and come away with strikingly different ideas about what it shows.” So even when someone sees every perspective of an argument, they can still come away with the same perception as they had before by not being open to different ideas. This phenomenon boils down to how “we are roiled by preconceptions and biases, and we usually do what feels easiest – we gorge on information that confirms our ideas, and we shun what does not.” It is an instinct that is only supported by an abundance of other people along with institutions who support these ideas. More so, it is a direct example of the problem with truth. While a document, film or photo can provide an “indexical quality”, or a “strict correspondence” to the object and “what it refers to” in the terms of Bill Nichols that we have seen in earlier coursework, of an event, it is really up to the viewer to make sense out of the information given. This is how events, such as the brutal 1951 Princeton-Dartmouth football game or the Trump comments on groping women referenced by Manjoo, can be interpreted in different ways based on the problems with video footage and its inability to express a singular universal “truth”. As cliche as it may sound, “truth” really is whatever we make it to be. According to Merriam-Webster, truth is “a judgement, proposition or idea that is true or accepted as true”. This difference between “true” and “accepted as true” is what I find to be most fascinating. While an idea or a proposition may not have a universal truth, individuals might have ideas that are “truths” in their own right. Is it fair to say that what someone else finds to be “truth” isn’t really “truth” because another person may believe it is not? To bring up an example in the case of religions, there is a spectrum of religions and what people perceive as truth, even when science in many ways contradicts what religious beliefs say. A large controversy revolving around evolution and Christianity is that people want to believe the science behind adaptation and genetics, while they still continue to believe in a god, creation theories and the uniqueness of humanity. A singular Christian in modern day society can consider both of these ideas are “truths”, while it is seemingly impossible for both ideas to actually coexist. The reality is that “truth” is much more complex than we would like to think. Just as Manjoo claims, the internet may have an array of information available. Yet what the internet contains can only offer such an “indexical quality”. We pick and choose what to consider “truth” as individuals. It is this freedom to interpret what is presented in front of each and every one of us that makes the internet seemingly oxymoronic in its ability to provide information and at the same time keep us limited to our views.

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