The internet has been around for, what, four or five hundred years now, and I'm pretty sure since day one people have lied on the internet. There's plenty of theories abound, but they all boil down to a few core concepts: no one knows who you are, so whatever it is you're saying has absolutely no ramifications if you are wrong. If that is the case, why should anyone believe anything?
I won't lie: it's a little saddening. It's not unusual for me to read some sort of sensationalist-sounding article, only having to dig through two or three dozen comments before someone points out the fatal flaw. Meanwhile, all the top comments are from foaming-mouthed indignant citizens reinforcing their opinions about this topic or that, blissfully unaware that they are being lied to.
We can even extend this sad little parade further; it's frustrating to see people take satire news shows like The Daily Show seriously. Sure, there's a kernel of truth in what they say--as all good satire does--but there's very little difference between the sensationalist stories and the satire that people take at face value. Your exaggerations of reality are funny, to be sure, but they're not actually, you know, true.
And with the advent of social media, where communication is swift and merciless, retractions and corrections are afterthoughts at best and ill-handled annoyances at worst. Actually, no, their non-existence is worse.
It should come as no surprise that the upcoming election prompted my post on this, because already--with barely a few months in and with a year and a half to go--my timelines and news feeds are filled with stories that are blatantly false by any rational standard, followed immediately by people who I know full well should know better believing every word of it to reinforce their opinions. I already vaguetweeted my desire to start unfollowing people who use these threadbare justifications to believe ridiculous things, and already I've been told that the fact that I don't honor varied opinions makes me narrow-minded. It's not that I don't want to hear other opinions--far from it--but that I can't stand people reading such obviously fake things, and even trying to correct them turns into a partisan shitstorm.
I rarely talk politics on my social media (or, if you've noticed, here) because I fear that most rational discourse online has all but disappeared. Even the few times I've found some calm corner of the internet quickly turns into a disaster. People get emotional about the weirdest things, and I can't handle that. I don't need my opinions in neat little boxes, but we all have to be on the same logical page.