There’s no question that we live in a society in which information moves faster than ever before. So the old adage that “a lie is halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on” is quite accurate.
A recent study in Science found that false news travels faster and wider and that the blame lies with humans. It’s the same reason that gossip tabloids have always flourished and that the Kardashians are so widely followed. Human nature seems to gravitate toward a willingness to spread falsehoods and exaggerations.
And this is why Facebook (and other big technology companies) are in a pinch ahead of the midterm elections. Because what they have to fix isn’t just an algorithm: it’s human behavior. Behavior that they’ve trained with Pavlovian-like responses tied to endorphins that ‘likes’ and ‘retweets’ cause in the brain. The ubiquitous nature of technology and its endemic effects make this a societal problem, with reverberations that are being felt in government, child-rearing, school, and more.
There’s still a need to be aware of and efforts made to stomp out fake news. Interestingly, even amid the growing era of machine learning, journalists may be better suited to do sniff out fake news. That is, journalists who aren’t being coerced into bashing national media companies by their employers.
What’s Life Without Information?
But what’s the answer? One New York Times columnist took a two-month hiatus from digital sources, getting his news only from print newspapers. The result was a less frenetic, richer experience with himself and his family. And an Ohio man completely cut himself off from every kind of news. Those kinds of solutions may not be for everyone, but they do indicate just how deep technology pervades our minds and the need to make some kind of change to our behavior.
Ultimately, it comes down to trust: trusting the sources from which you get information, whether it’s from brands, news sources, family members, Twitter accounts, or wherever you’re engaging. And knowing that you have the power to influence others, because that’s who people trust over all sources. Your employees, customers, fans, family and the like — they’re the ones who will be the best resource when it comes to leading and defending your brand or your story. If you have a good relationship with them and can be consistent and persistent, you stand a chance of breaking through.
For a copy of the Brain+Trust Partners paper on Brand Survival in a Post-Factual Age, click here.