Social Media – A Liberator, Educator, and A Promoter of Truths?

by Patrick Liew on March 15, 2017

Social media may not necessarily be a liberator from lies, and neither is it a promoter of truths.

In fact, social media can be a dangerous place to seek and find truths.

It’s a powerful platform to spread lies, half truths and misinformation – and sometimes, they’re known as “alternative facts” or “post-truths”.


1. Truths oftentimes have to be explained, justified, and supported by references.

Most truths are relative. They have to be communicated with precise terms and supported by assumptions, caveats and limitations.

Therefore, it takes commitment, time, effort and discipline to understand and accept truths.

2. On the other hand, through memes, animation, and appealing designs, information on the social media are easier to read, comprehend and remembered.

As a result, such information may be accepted as “truths” to the common men.

3. As they say, thinking is a scarce resource.

Many people are not willing to focus their mental resources and discipline themselves to think deeply.

They are not committed to think long and hard to find out truths or distill truths from the volume, velocity and veracity of information on the Net.

4. Many people tend to be ignorant and apathetic.

They are unwilling or unable to deal with the biases and prejudices that influence their decisions.

5. In addition, they are faced with time, cognitive, or environmental constraints to research and analyse information, and determine and verify truths.

6. They may not be able to weigh pros and cons of different sources of information and think critically to make an informed judgement.

7. To make matters worst, many relevant information are beyond the radar screen.

This information includes character defects, hidden agendas, and powers influencing online discussions from both locally and overseas.

8. In a sound-bite generation, creative crafting of words and use of hyperboles to incite emotions can win the day.

9. Social media is usually the place for monologue rather than discussion, and braggadocio rather than humility of the spirit to learn from one another.

Netizens focus on winning of support rather than opening of the mind, and shallow debate rather than deep engagement.

10. That’s why social media sites tend to be echo chambers.

They gather people who share the same views.

Those who have differing and contradicting views will be un-“friend”, “block”, and “mute” by the press is a button.

11. Because of the speed and brevity of online discussions, netizens are prone to post their fast and furious views on complex matters in less than 140 characters.

Once the comments are posted, they stay on the Net and on the Cloud permanently.

According to Professor Cialdini in his book, Psychology of Influence, most people who articulate their views have a tendency not to change their views. They may continue to find more ways to justify and support their views.

12. Some of these views have a tendency to move hearts, provoke feelings, and invoke passions.

If these views validate pre-existing biases and prejudices, they will be shared at the click of a button.

Once the views are spread to a tipping point, they may be accepted as gospel truths.

As Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels famously stated, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

The Hasher/Goldstein/Toppino study appears to provide the empirical evidence to support that claim.

14. C. S. Lewis was once quoted to have said that humans have a tendency to swing from one extreme to another extreme.

We formed many of our beliefs and views through our social standings and interactions rather than through vigorous research and evidence.

Our feeling and emotions are frequently not based on understanding, facts, and wisdom.

We are adept at spotting weaknesses of other’s arguments and not that of our own.

15. Social media have a tendency to promote group think or worst, invoke mass hysteria and contribute to tyranny of the mob.

In the years to come, it’s likely that social media will play a major role in shaping our thought process and influencing our views.

If we are not careful, social media may not lead us to a path of wise adaptation and enlightenment but to social degradation and self-destruction.

Hence, the more explicit rise of half-truths, fake news, post-truths and alternative reality in recent times.

16. Sadly, there are ample evidence to show that for many people, once they hold something to be true, it’s hard to change their minds.

How then can we stop and turn this negative tide that’s a major part of social media?


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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