Julie Seedorf: Why do we believe what we see online?
Published 1:48 pm Sunday, July 29, 2018
Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf
This message has been trending on social media: “Crazy … it worked! After reposting this to all my friends, my newsfeed showed a whole new batch of friends’ posts I haven’t been seeing.
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“Here’s how to avoid hearing from the same 25 Facebook friends, due to Facebook’s new algorithm. If you are reading this message, do me a favor and leave me a quick comment… a “hello,” a sticker, whatever you want, so you will appear in my newsfeed! Then, copy and paste onto your wall so you can have more interaction with all your contacts.”
I know this is false and does not work, but I have seen it so many times the part of my brain which feeds sensible thought changed and I began to believe that possibly this was true, even though I had checked it out with factual sources. After all, could so many intelligent people be misled? My truth was starting to change. Maybe I needed to try it because there is the chance it could work in spite of what factual sources state.
This happens in our lives too. If someone tells us we are stupid or ugly or are a failure and it is repeated often enough, one begins to change what we believe about ourselves. There are studies that support this theory.
How many products do we buy because the commercials appearing during our television viewing time repeat over and over again? We buy products too good to be true because we watch the hype merry-go-rounded until we believe using a certain vitamin will take away our bunions. In fact, ask yourself how many times during the commercial break on a television show you have seen the same commercial twice or even three times in a few minutes. Think about it — would fake products be selling if somehow we weren’t enticed into believing they can cure the incurable or make us want that which we always stated we didn’t need?
It also makes a difference who is speaking. Back in the ’50s, Verne Gagne was selling a certain type of vitamin. My parents bought it because Verne was popular, and in those days people tended to believe those who were in the limelight, whether they used the product or not. It was all about who was giving them the pitch. Were they trustworthy? And how did they know they could trust them?
In 2018 our brains are hit every single second while we are on social media with messages to buy, believe or fix something. They burn into our brain over and over again so much we began to believe that which is not true, such as the Facebook message above. And then we tend to not believe the sites, news people or others that actually report the truth. We do not take the time to investigate.
Is it a form of brainwashing? I feel it is.
An article on BBC.com by psychologist Tom Stafford posted on Oct. 26, 2016, is titled: “How liars create the illusion of truth.” He states, “Repetition makes a fact seem truer, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda.”
These days, we seem to be arguing about Facebook posts, statements in the newspapers, what politicians and celebrities say as to the validity of the truth. We accept what is printed and posted and shouted as the truth without actually investigating where the statement is coming from or whether the person making the pitch is actually who they say they are. We accept it as valid, depending on what we believe, and we may believe the statement because of what we have been fed either by someone in our lives personally such as “you are stupid” or by what we do and see out in the world. We believe without question if the point of view that is fed to us aligns with what we concur. But I think we have to ask ourselves if we believe what we believe because we investigated and came to a sensible decision, or if we believe what we believe because we have seen it over and over again in front of us so that it is burned into our brain and has changed the way we perceive things — or if we believe what is being said because of it being passed down by someone who had the same values as us. And we don’t question who or what the source is or if it is valid because we think the same way.
I am as guilty of this as anyone else. I have to ask myself if I believe what I believe to be true because I have based my decision on facts, or if I have followed along blindly because it feeds that which I already believe whether the source is fact or fake. I also have to ask myself why I trust the speaker. Are they known to be truthful, or do they tell me what I want to hear for their own gain? After all, as John Steinbeck stated,” It has always been my private conviction that any man who puts his intelligence up against a fish and loses had it coming.” I guess I will believe that.
Oh and I won’t be offended if you don’t believe me. After all, this could be all fake news.
Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at email@example.com.