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Recap & Resources


In a "post-truth" age

The information contained here is not current, and links have not been checked for accuracy.

use at your own risk.

What is post-truth?

Oxford Dictionary just named "post-truth" the 2016 Word of the Year. According to their announcement article, post-truth is an adjective meaning:

"relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief"*

They have traced the word back to 1992, but have seen an increase in its usage in 2015 and 2016, especially with the "Brexit" referendum and now the presidential elections. It seems that people today gravitate towards people/things/articles that tug on their emotional and personal beliefs, perhaps more than digging deep to see if those people/things/articles are backed up facts. 2016 seemed to be a year that cultivated an atmosphere of "post-truth."

* Note: post-truth should not be confused with Stephen Colbert's "truthiness," coined in 2005. "Truthiness" is when someone believes something, even if it is not supported by fact/evidence.

Facebook's Trending News Topics

The results are in: 44% of US Americans use Facebook as a source for their news (Pew Research, 2016). However, Facebook has been under fire for their trending news feed and the amount of fake news that people believe is "truth."

People have studied Facebook's trending news and examined the algorithm pulling stories to the top of our feeds. These feeds are personalized, based on the information Facebook has mined about you. Facebook is showing you stories that it thinks you want to see, and definitely not showing you everything. There is some human interaction in picking those top stories, but more and more, people are writing an algorithm and letting it make those decisions. If you track what trends, you'll notice that the algorithm pulls from certain websites and sometimes, fake news is pushed to the top of the charts.

If we're going to get our news from Facebook, we have to evaluate and interrogate the information that pops up on our feeds. Check out the left hand side bar for more information on how to be a critical reader.

Still interested? Check out this story on what it's like to be a fake news writer (from The Washington Post). Or check out the article below from Tech Crunch on how Facebook creates your News Feed.