How to be a Consumer of News in a Post-Truth World


By Isabella Gil

Sophomore Isa Gil on post-truth politics.
Sophomore Isa Gil on post-truth politics.

We live in a post-truth world that is becoming eerily similar to George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” in which 2 + 2 can equal 5. We have come so far from the truth that we believe any nonsense that politicians, the internet, or social media tell us. We have become sponges: we do not think; we only absorb what is told to us and do not question anything. The control and power that we had has been taken from us due to this trend of “post truth,” in which opinions are taken as facts.

This year was the presidential election — probably the most crucial and important one we have had in a long time. The presidential election was between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. Trump ended up winning and will soon become the 45th president of the United States. According to several news reports, including the New York Times, fake news and its spread on social media helped Trump become president.

We all are aware that dishonesty is very normal in politics, but it’s the way it is being used today that’s alarming. In today’s society we allow politicians to say anything that comes to mind because we believe it. We show our support through retweets, shares, favorites, and likes. Sometimes we show this support after simply reading a headline without examining the actual article or its source.

A recent article in The Economist explained how “feelings trump facts” in today’s politics.

“Helped by new technology, a deluge of facts and a public much less given to trust than once it was, some politicians are getting away with a new a new depth and pervasiveness of falsehood. If this continues, the power of truth as a tool for solving society’s problems could be lastingly reduced,” the author writes.

Trump is the epitome of a politician who takes advantage of our post-truth society. He will say anything, even if it bears no relation to reality, as long it attracts voters and people to him. He accused President Barack Obama of being the founder of the dangerous enemy of the United States, ISIS, demonstrating that he does not care about the truth of what he says as long as he gets media attention.

“[Obama’s] the founder of ISIS. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton,” Trump said during one of the presidential debates.

Despite Trump’s faults, we cannot only blame our post-truth world on politicians’ lies. The post-truth world exists due to many sources working together, including social media. People are constantly on their phones — posting pictures, reading the news, and texting friends. We have let ourselves trust the power of social media, but what if that trust is actually hurting us instead of bringing good into our lives?

In her article “Facebook is Eating the World,” Emily Bell writes, “With billions of users and and hundreds of thousands of articles, pictures, and videos arriving online every day, social platforms have to employ algorithms to try and sort through the important and recent and popular and decide who ought to see what. And we have no option but to trust them to do this.”

When did we put all our power in the hands of a few people? We have lost control of our daily lives and handed to social media companies that influence what we see, hear, and read. In fact, according to Pew Research Center data, 62 percent of U.S. adults use social media as a news source.

As a teen user on social media, I have personally been guilty of the very actions I mentioned. I have retweeted and shared links with headlines that agree with my ideology without reading or fact-checking the actual article. Recently, I became aware of this problem since I have been learning about these topics in Sophomore Honors English and AP Government. In both these classes, we took a survey about where we receive our news, and in both, more than half of the class reported they received their news from social media, specifically Snapchat.

We, as teens in a society where truth is losing its value, must take the power back and show how truth has meaning. We must be citizen journalists and actually read and fact check what we hear and read before we blindly retweet and like posts and headlines that we may agree with. We also need use multiple news sources to get a more balanced view. We must ask ourselves, honestly, are we getting news or entertainment?

Trust me, we do not want to become like the citizens from Oceania in “1984.” Now more than ever, we need to reclaim the meaning of truth for ourselves.