“The biggest problem is that Facebook and Google are these giant feedback loops that give people what they want to hear. And when you use them in a world where your biases are being constantly confirmed, you become susceptible to fake news, propaganda, demagoguery.” — Franklin Foer
Someone once told me to write as if I were dying. It was good advice. There is an urgency that comes through in our words when we imagine that we are taking our final breath.
In much the same way, we need to act as if we were on our deathbed. We must strike the word complacency from our lexicon. Otherwise, we are marching with eyes wide open towards authoritarian rule.
At a time when we all curate our reality — none of us can deny that — we need to look outside our echo chambers to get to the truth. It takes work to know the facts. And many people take the easy road and become hypnotized by undemanding answers to complicated questions.
As a long-time proponent of the benefits of yoga, I see many people within the wellness community falling for an avalanche of lies about COVID-19. Many are on Instagram peddling their remedies and discussing how they refuse to wear masks inside stores and restaurants. They dismiss science and amplify each other’s messages about how the coronavirus is one big conspiracy by the government to control us and our bodies. And it’s not just the fringe elements turning to QAnon as their primary news source. Influencers with millions of followers tell their fans to fight back by taking a stand against Dr. Fauci and refusing to get a vaccine.
The worst part is, their compelling videos are working. You only need to check out Jesse Elder, a self-help guru with hundreds of thousands of followers, to see just how bad it’s gotten. He fills his social media feed with half-truths about the virus. He denies sciences and, in some videos, appears to tell people to break the law. Of course, he doesn’t come right out and tell folks to do something illegal, but he comes pretty darn close.
The responsibility is on all of us to call these folks out. The only way to fight back against disinformation is to disarm the culprit. The only way to change the narrative is by creating compelling messages that are fact-based. We can no longer rely on data to convince hearts and minds. Stories sell and numbers numb. We must become master storytellers. It’s the only way to get into the news streams of everyday Americans.
We have no time left to sit on our hands and fret about the future. The time to act is now. The survival of our planet depends on the effort we make to ensure that future generations are free from the disease of disinformation.
Find something good to do. And then do it more.