The digital environment today allows a voice for all. While this gives us the opportunity to be agents of change, emerging from it are fake news, cancel culture, and outrage culture.
If you weren’t living under a rock during the years 2016-2020, you might’ve heard the term fake news. This misinformation threatens real news that allows us to become informed citizens. NPR names this time as a “post-truth era.” We are unable to determine falsehoods from the truth and some are quick to believe anything that looks credible because 1. sources take time to verify and it’s easier to believe what you see/hear without fact-checking 2. people will believe something right away if it aligns with their held opinions or views. This is problematic especially in such a polarized political landscape and a time where social media is an outlet for so much misinformation. Being skeptical is so important, NPR’s “Finder’s Guide to Facts” is a useful tool that is helpful for discerning facts from falsehood, something that we as consumers need to become better at.
Cancel culture and outrage culture are also negative consequences of the free-speech digital age. Cancel culture is becoming more common largely because social media allows a space for uncensored opinions/ concerns as well as a space for mass groups to convene to address these opinions/concerns. Some see cancel culture as infringing on our right to free speech, while others see it as holding people accountable for their words and actions (“accountability culture.”) Cancel culture in some ways does pose a threat to free speech, public figures and citizens alike have to censor what they say because they could “die a public death” and be cancelled over sensitive topics. Adam Smith, a Tucson citizen who got “cancelled” and fired from his job because of a YouTube video showing him protesting Chick-fil-A for their homophobic remarks, had this to say about cancel culture; “Overall, I see the cancel culture, the public shaming, as a negative symptom of where we’re at and how we engage with each other. There are much kinder, calmer, more humane ways to get people to see what their actions are and how they’re impacting others. It takes more time. It’s more deliberate. It’s much easier to just click and shame and cancel someone. I don’t subscribe and support the shaming or the canceling of people at all. I think there are much, much more effective human ways to create change.” I agree with this quote, people are too quick to cancel others and sometimes without knowing all the facts of the situation. Cancel culture hinders free speech, which is so important in a democracy. If people are censoring everything they say as to not offend anyone, nothing will get done and we will not see change occurring especially when it is needed. A free society depends on the free exchange of ideas and honestly, the most important issues are the ones that are most controversial. Like with cancel culture, outrage culture is problematic because people are so quick to become outraged about a video, tweet, post, or action without assessing the context or taking time to fact-check. With fake news, cancel culture, and outrage culture, people are quick to believe and assume things that may not be true. We must be skeptical, open to ideas that are different than our own, and take time to learn the truth.