To complete my reinvention as a professional who is authentic, influential and worth listening too requires some certainty on the part of my followers that I can be relied upon to speak with truth and accuracy. So how can I achieve this within my social media practice?
It has proven challenging encapsulating any specific academic position over the question of truth and accuracy in my blog writing to date. This is perhaps because the subject can be approached through so many perspectives. It is intertwined with questions of power, from Facebook, who use algorithms to edit the information we receive, the Russian twitter accounts used to influence American’s voters and WikiLeaks, revealing government secrets it feels should be in the public domain.
As with so many things on the web, it all started with a utopian hope. The internet would empower everyone, big corporations and big government would no longer be able to keep secrets. Yochai Benkler and Manual castells are primary examples of a group of ‘techno-optimistic’ internet scholars, who ‘stress in a techno-euphoric manner the political power of the internet and social media’ (Fuchs 2014:211).
The counter argument from Allmer and Fuchs again immediately reminds us of the negative effect of surveillance ‘that is inherently linked to information gathering for the purposes of domination, violence and coercion’ (Fuchs 2114:213). We thus have struggles of information and power in all directions all of the time, never really knowing if a hidden truth is for our good or our detriment.
Back to my day-to-day use of media sources.
Like many of my peers, I do not automatically trust anything from social media unless it has come from a ‘trusted source’. Trust of course is in the eyes of the beholder, I trust ‘The Economist’, a newspaper I have read for over 20-years, it may be slightly right of centre but essentially it speaks global truth in a way that many governments also trust.
I don’t trust the UK’s tabloid press, indeed I can be certain that The Daily Mail is woefully inaccurate. Television is better, sometimes even accurate, but then we get the rub of ‘levels’ of truth and accuracy. Suppose our source of ‘truth’ is trying to simplify the subject it is explaining, suppose its explanation of Brexit arguments is just 5-minutes long, or five lines long, or indeed a simple sound-bite. They are not trying to ‘hide’ anything, they are just trying to make truth accessible by making it simpler to understand. The problem is that their very simplification could itself be misleading and become ‘untruthful’.
Society today does seem very intolerant of complexity, intolerant of spending time reading or listening or in anyway analysing a complex subject to find the real truth behind it.
How then do we decide when something is ‘truthful’ enough, or ‘accurate’ enough? I’m sure these questions warrant a detailed academic debate. But for now I will stick to my own practice.
I would like to be a trusted source. I would like my followers to decide that they should follow me, listen to me, retweet me and allow my influence to grow, because they know to trust what I say. So this begs the questions, how do I earn their trust?
It seems to me that trust is earned over time, and by building up trusted followers who have in turn earned the trust of their followers too. Rather like some sort of trip-adviser test of quality or eBay star rating of reliability.
Indeed, perhaps we should invent a rating system for ‘truth’ that is attached to our articles and news stories. It sounds impossible to create, but the value of it if possible would be immeasurable. Of course, I can immediately recognise that one person’s high scoring ‘truth’ will be another’s low score. Still, the idea warrants some serious investigation.
My task is simple then. Build trust over time by consistently have a voice of reliability, grow a follower base with gravitas and trust themselves and be a part of some new emerging rating system which could help bring much some much needed clarity to the clamber and confusion that is today’s social media.
These five blog posts have helped me consider how I can reinvent my professional practice using the right approach to social media. How I can achieve a truly authentic voice, strong social capital to increase my influence, more time to develop my profile through cognitive surplus, more skills in activism to have more impact and an ability to be trusted for speaking truth and clarity amongst my growing group of followers.
Fuchs, Christian (2014), Social Media: A critical Introduction, Sage publications Ltd, London,