Truth and Lies: You are Susceptible to Manipulation

July 14, 2017 - 0 Comments

You’re walking along Moi Avenue at around 7:30PM. There are lots of people rushing to get home. You come across a tall guy, he looks shifty. His shoes are muddy, and you can tell he hasn’t bothered to clean them in a long long time. His clothes are unkempt, and your gut tells you he’s high on something. He’s wearing a huge hoodie. He looks like he is hiding something in his pocket. He’s walking like he has some place to be, but you can tell he doesn’t. He tries to stop you to talk to you.

What do you do? I can bet my money that you will walk away as quick as you can. Even if you did stop to listen to what he had to say, and he told you “Unaitwa na yule mrembo pale” (while pointing in some dark alley), you would walk away. Chances are you wouldn’t even stop to give him directions if he asked you too.

In real life, you have the ability to use your 5 senses to make a judgement call on whether something makes sense or not.

Now think about how our smart phones have become our reality, more than anything else. You’d rather chat with a friend on WhatsApp than have real interaction with the person right next to you. Your life on Social Media is perfected by tonnes of filters and edits, a “better reality” than your actual life.

Only problem is when we’re on Twitter we do not bother to spot the tall shifty guy with the muddy shoes. You cannot see that he does not look trustworthy. You take his word as fact, not knowing that he’s leading you to a dark alley to be mugged.

During the election period, you have probably come across a lot of lies… lies changed into edgy extreme opinions, and then presented as facts. With the power of social media apparent now, more than ever, it’s getting harder to differentiate between facts and opinions, lies and truth, propaganda and information.

It’s dumb to believe everything you read on the internet.

Now ask yourself this: If I do not believe the words of every person I run into on the streets of Nairobi, why am I quick to believe news I hear online? By sharing anything and everything I see fit, could I be spreading a lot of falsehoods? What could happen if millions of people believed a lie to be true?

Hitler and the holocaust… Apartheid in South Africa… So many things in this world… There may have been so many factors that came into play to contribute to these atrocities, but they all started with communication, and the spread of falsehoods.

It is up to you, to use your social media power responsibly.
  • Before sharing “news” ask questions.
  • Ask for sources.
  • Ask for proof, even when things are presented as an “obvious truth”.
  • Look for multiple sources.
  • Look beyond your bubble and try to listen and understand people with opposing views.
  • Accept you are ignorant (PS: that does not mean stupid). You cannot and will not know everything.
  • Be curious and hungry for real facts. But do not accept everything at face-value.
It is important that we learn to differentiate truth from lies.

It may be a few words limited by 140 characters. But we all know words are powerful. Violence starts and ends with communication. They can make you feel disrespected. They can spur up hatred. They can take away your freedoms.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. -Ronald Reagan

You and I did not inherit freedom from our parents. Our parents did not inherit it from their parents. Be that as it may, you now enjoy the freedom to meet with your friends, make your own choices, learn something new and be who we want to be. Even though everything seems to be going wrong in this country, let us not take for granted the little freedoms we enjoy.

It starts with your own words – use them wisely. And if you spot something that churns your gut feeling, ask the right questions. Have the courage to call out the falsehood when you clearly see them. This country needs more courage.

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