So I’m going to be trying to not name names here but I’m sure that, given recent events in small circles some may be aware pretty quickly. Maybe all of you will; I don’t know. Anyway, with that out of the way…
Recently a person who is considered by some people as being an important person (and considered by others as being problematic) shared something on Twitter and made some implication that it could have to do with a political party. Technically someone else shared it and this person retweeted it with their own added comments, but that’s not the important bit.
It turned out that this thing was was actually porn. Now, I’m not completely certain, but I believe the original sharer corrected themselves, which is something. However, the person seen as important deleted it and, for lack of a better phrasing, walked away.
I think there’s a fair bit to unpack here, but something I wanted to focus on is how it’s a clear display of confirmation bias, and it’s something that a lot of us really need to think about much more often. It’s so easy for us to point fingers at something and think “Yep, that fits”, and a good chunk of the time it might not, but we don’t think to question it as it helps us reinforce an opinion of something or someone. It’s a good way to reinforce prejudice and hate just simply because we think something may or may not fit.
The other thing that I wanted to focus on is how we’re so willing to share things on social media and just accept them at face value. There is so much disinformation shared on social media but it’s easy to believe things there, in part due to confirmation bias, in part due to trusting sources that have no real backing. As such, it’s easy for us to buy into things when we should be thinking more about them.
I think that in this particular situation, this is someone who had a moment where they could have removed the post and admitted that it was not real. It was a moment for them to talk about how we can be mislead by things and that they were wrong. However, instead of that there was no follow up, or at least none that I could see. It’s a moment for reflection, and maybe they did. Maybe they did so privately which is well within their right. However, I think that if someone is considered a public intellectual and they’re willing to speak as though that description is applicable, then they have an obligation to engage in public discourse and openly admit when they get things wrong.
Of course they seldom ever admit to being wrong so I’m not surprised it didn’t happen this time. One has to be willing to be wrong and you have to be willing to let go of confirmation bias. Even if you gain information that doesn’t change your views due to its lack of strength, you still have to be willing to have what you know challenged. You don’t grow if you refuse to learn and engage. You don’t grow if all you do is reinforce prejudice.