Have you ever scrolled through your Facebook feed and felt slightly jealous at the wonderful life all your friends are living? “Oh look, so and so just got back from their amazing trip to Tibet!” “Wow, so and so are expecting their second baby, how exciting!” If so, you’re not alone!
In fact, researchers have already launched a few studies on the ill effects of having to sit through people’s exciting and envious lives as shown on social media.
The most interesting thing, for me at least, is the fact that not everyone is actually living such perfect lives.
We tend to forget that by definition social media is designed to bring the best out of us, and we spend a lot of time crafting a profile that will show only the most positive aspects of our lives.
Don’t believe me? Try to post angsty or negative status updates and you can be sure that for every supportive message you receive someone out there either hid you, unfriended you, or maybe even felt some relief at the idea that they’re not the only ones going through a bad day.
It doesn’t mean your friends and family don’t care about you! It simply means that we, as human beings, are rather gullible; we prefer to believe in a fake but positive reality rather than face a real but negative truth.
Research shows that most of us are in fact, pretty trusting of online sources. Whether it’s social media, news sites, blogs, discussion forums, or comment sections, it seems all areas of our online life are seen as reliable sources of information.
But how reliable and trustworthy can online sources actually be?
After all, if a profile picture can be made to deceive potential dating partners, can’t the news be slightly modified – or made up – to get people to react a certain way? If certain people pretend to be someone else on forums, how far-fetched is it to imagine some customer reviews are actually written by fake customers, scammers, or marketers? If an account can be hacked into, how does one know for sure who’s on the other end of the screen?
Of course such practices already existed way before the internet; people have been lying, cheating, and deceiving for as long as humanity has known how to talk.
The difference is that with the internet, it’s become extremely easy to do it and even easier to propagate the misinformation to as many people as possible in very little time.
The good thing is that people are much more equipped now to unmask liars. We may be very trusting, but we’re also pretty suspicious when something sounds too good to be true. Especially when it comes to social, economic, or political issues.
These areas are so important to our daily lives that we’re particularly careful with the implications of spreading erroneous or false information. Sure, some rumours may still get out of hand from time to time and blow up into senseless scandals (I’m looking at you, STOMP!), but for the most part, the internet is now a key tool to disprove misinformation or to find alternative points of view.
That’s why I’m pretty happy to see diverse opinions expressed on many of Singapore’s alternative media sites; I may not agree with all of them, but I think the very fact that they exist is proof we are maturing as a society and are no longer afraid of asking questions, demanding proof, and debating opinions.
The question is, how can we maintain a good balance that’ll allow us to get a healthy sense of alternative opinions while not believing EVERYTHING we see online?
Take, for instance, all the online discussions around FTs. If you were to believe only what you see online, you’d think Singapore is invaded by lazy, dirty, and selfish foreigners who only want to take our jobs and drive us all to poverty. Many online discussions even turn into gratuitous, hurtful, and dangerous racist remarks!
Nowadays just about anyone can create a blog, post ignorant or hurtful opinions, and propagate false information. Add in the fact that many people have a lot of free time on their hands as well as the fact that many people turn into unrecognisable trolls if their anonymity is guaranteed, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!
Thankfully it only takes one look outside in the real world to see that Singapore is comprised of many hardworking, caring, and valuable foreigners who have chosen to call this tiny island their home because they admire what we’ve done with it.
As in most things in life, I’d say it’s all about common sense, critical thinking, tolerance, and a little bit of education; your opinion may be valid, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right all the time or true for all people. And just because you deeply believe or care for something doesn’t mean everyone else should!
Also, a little sense of humour never hurts! :D