Let us defend truth

06 Jan 2019 / 20:08 H.

    LAST year was not easy for truth. We often cite truth as a tenet of any progressive and functioning society, but I cannot help but wonder if we have forgotten how important it really is.

    There is a reason for the seeming madness that is my opinion. As I look back on the year past, a few patterns seem to have surfaced in our information-gathering process. These telltale signs reveal how we make our decisions, and where our priorities seem to be shifting.

    First, we can no longer wait. We get cranky when websites take more than a few seconds to load or if a car ahead takes more than half a second to get moving when the lights turn green.

    Our thirst for instant gratification has transferred over to our search for news. No longer can we wait for print newspapers published once a day, or monthly issues of glossy magazines. We want knowledge instantly, and the digital age has made it possible. In so doing, however, responsible reporting can be sacrificed for clicks, likes and shares.

    Traditional journalism has stayed relevant, but now so has social media and other non-traditional information providers. While information is now aplenty, many of these sources are unverified and may even be curated to convince. Yet, we often take what we read as gospel and unwittingly become influenced.

    Second, the internet continues to play a big role in our lives; some may call it an awakening dragon we feed every day. In 2018, technology and social media giants drew the ire of governments and users alike over issues of data privacy and the unauthorised harvesting of data for alleged psychological manipulation and distribution of fake news.

    This reveals a scary possibility: not all the information we consume is held to a standard of authenticity, maturity and frankly, truth. And as we process information to develop opinions, we run the risk of making conclusions based on inaccurate or incomplete information.

    Truth mixed with a hidden agenda is a dangerous cocktail; it can lead to extreme views or unthinking acts. I come across rants on social media over certain issues only to discover after digging that the arguments presented are often flaky and shallow.

    Of course there are those who responsibly handle information and maturely present their thoughts, inconvenient as it may be. These individuals and organisations are acutely aware of the power of information to shape daily decisions and world events.

    It is not easy to support truth, however. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 34 journalists lost their lives in retaliation killings for their work in 2018, twice the number recorded in 2017. It seems that there is war against the search and discovery of truth, and it affects all of us.

    So as consumers of information, the role we play in creating a holistic and progressive society is critical. In my opinion, we must take great care to be an informed audience. It is important to understand that we are bombarded with thousands of messages every day, and our ability to differentiate truth from fallacy will make all the difference.

    We live in a society that’s increasingly fragile, where the slightest misstep can cause the scales of reason to tip. Let us not exchange the bright bulbs of truth for the dimmer lights of sensational headlines or half-baked tales.

    In 2019, I hope we, as individuals and a nation, will choose to be defenders of truth. I hope we will recognise and appreciate its worth, and advocate transparency, accuracy and responsibility in both the digital and real spaces of our lives.

    Comments: letters@thesundaily.com