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Neither God nor Pure Journalists Online

by John on 02/04/2017

(Or why the Internet lacks God and journalism; plus pretend you’re still in Salt Lake City.)

bad behavior onlineIn his book, Thank You for Being Late, Tom Friedman recounts a question from the audience during a speaking engagement.

“Is God on the Internet?”

Friedman uses a full chapter to answer with — spoiler alert — a big fat NO.

Push back from your screens and think about it.  Not only do many of us seem to forfeit our religion, but also our American decency online.

Some so-called liberals are not very liberal when it comes to other people’s speech.

And the religious right aren’t so religious or right.  Someone noticed:  “All my holier than thou friends say the most horrific things online and then in the next post say ‘praise Jesus’.”

Spend More Time in Salt Lake

It reminds me of the story that may be a Vegas myth.  Back in the 1980s, before I moved there, a number of golfing buddies told me about an airline flight arriving every Friday night to Vegas from Salt Lake City.  On board were dozens of Mormon women for a weekend getaway.

“The guys (from Vegas) would line up at the airport waiting for them.”


“They were wild women unleashed,” one friend told me.  Others agreed.

They were, my friends explained, free from the judgmental eyes of the LDS Church which frowns upon partying, booze, and sexual activity outside of marriage.

With all apologies to my Mormon friends, this story has a wider relevance.

Without rules or laws, many folks will take be inclined to take advantage.  It’s human nature.  It is why you don’t have free education and free healthcare.  It will be abused because “it is not my money.”  It is also why you prohibit companies from dumping untreated waste into nearby streams; if you don’t stop it, the managers will do it because it saves money and raises profits.

It is the same with the Internet today.

Talking to people face-to-face in regular society is like being in Salt Lake City. While going online is like heading to Vegas. The problem is what happens on the Internet doesn’t stay on the Internet.

Social Trust

Is this dangerous for America? In the long run, yes.

Francis Fukuyama in his book, Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity, contends that “in an era when social capital may be as important as physical capital, only those societies with a high degree of social trust will be able to create the flexible, large-scale business organizations that are needed to compete in the new global economy.”

What he is saying is: to succeed as a nation and individually, we need to have each other’s backs — even if we don’t agree. I am watching the History Channel mini-series “Six” about Seal Team Six.  The foundation of their beings is having each other’s backs.

Read Charles Duhigg’s book, Smarter, Faster, Better.

He shows how successful companies today make sure all employees have a say in the company.  He shows how carmakers do better when workers on the assembly line are allowed to shut down the line if something is wrong that needs to be corrected.  That is management giving the workers social trust.

There is very little social trust in social media.

Here is the clash. So many people are so comfortable in their own beliefs they fail to see the coming changes.  It’s a sign of lazy thinking. They selfishly refuse to think someone else’s ideas might have worth.

For instance, Hillary Clinton supporters were blindsided by the quiet surge of Trump voters who want change and who felt neglected in this economy. The Clinton campaign instead tried to run the Obama campaigns from 2008 and 2012 failing to see the changes and anger in those eight years.

I also think a lot of those Trump voters will be disappointed when coal and other antiquated jobs don’t come back.  Hopefully, many of them will get retraining – and take advantage of it.

At the same time too, I think many of the Trump supporters are acting like the Clinton campaign. To dismiss the massive protests about immigration, the banking sector, and the environment also fails to address the problems we are facing.  All Trump supporters seem to be saying is: “We won.  Deal with it.”

You see that back and forth online all the time.  Both sides still fall into the biggest media bias — the sports media bias. We root for one team against the other even though both teams are flawed.  It is great entertainment. But it solves no problems.

How do we change this? How do we get social trust on the Internet?

Become a Journalist

We need to act more like journalists, or better yet, act like the journalists we want.  And it starts with us.  The most important journalist in your life is you.

When you post something, you are responsible for it. Your social media page is like your publication or your TV show. It says something about you. So follow these rules:

  • Post items that have credible attribution.
  • The more interesting posts are usually from people who find ideas that differed from their original beliefs.
  • If you post something that is questionable, mention that. Acknowledge it might be coming from a site that has a particular bias.
  • When you post, feel free to engage the ideas of the people who follow you.
  • Don’t be afraid to post something that offers a conflicting point of view. Make sure to stick with ideas, not attacking the person.
  • If someone is not kind online, do two things: block them; or keep them but don’t respond. Silence is a sometimes a better judge.

These ideas might not be as fun or entertaining, but all of us trying to be honest brokers of information might help the country.

Thoughts?  How about your solutions?


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