Images Don’t Always Tell the Story: How Social Media Dumbs Down Critical Thought

By Ethan Indigo Smith

Contributing writer for Wake Up World

Some years ago, the alternative news media began to be hijacked, and mixed in with political ardency from one side or another. The resulting misinformation belittled alternative news, just as it was starting to gain legitimacy alongside the mainstream.

My feeling at this time was that entities were eliminating the voice of the alternative and progressive media institutions, favoring instead rigid right wing propaganda to the point of ridiculousness. Over the years, this has led to a dumbing down of alternative media, particularly with the use of pictures and photos. Allow me a paragraph or two to tell my story and set the scene before you set off your attention span countdown:

My story is my own and personal, but it is also reflective of thousands of writers and communicators at large, and is revelatory of our own collective stories the last few years as well.

I always wanted to be a writer. After I finished my first book, The Complete Patriot’s Guide to Oligarchical Collectivism, I realized how much I wanted to learn about how to share my writing. As a neophyte I thought I had finished by completing a book when of course I was only then starting. After fumbling around the internet with few connections I found some allies who supported my writing in numerous ways, some supported article ideas occasionally and some regularly.

Wake Up World helped and helps me really enhance my ability to reach people all across the world. When I first began writing with the website there were near 1 million people on their main social media platform actively following their articles.

At that time I had fewer books in total, fewer followers in total and was certainly way less known as an author someone might be interested than I am now, if I am. When Wake Up World shared one of my articles I would sell dozens of books that day and numerous in the days that followed. And because I was so little known, in the days that followed sometimes as little as zero books was typical.

Social media made my dream of being a writer a reality or least a realistic idea to reach for. But more or less directly after Wake Up World was given an award for the most popular alternative news source in Australia, the social media constriction began.

I went from selling dozens of books when I released an article to selling none. It was about at this time that the main social media platform enhanced the algorythm profiles to find the information and the advertising that best suited you and your interests. Most articles disappeared from my feed, pictures and short videos took over.

This was years after Facebook for instance removed the option which allowed you to either scroll through most recent posts, or most popular. The result was that not only were alternative news sources mitigated and articles relegated, but your feed was then and has now been infiltrated by corporations with snazzy pictures and videos, posing as contemporaries, spouting the benefits of some snake oil idea or product.

This has led to more of what social media giants had said they were trying to eliminate. Of course, your whole network is an echo chamber – but more importantly, it has become an echo chamber of utter bullshit stories -in pictures. The pictures include some conspiracy theory speculation and literally dumb down the collective discussion to the point people have to ask really, really stupid questions so as to clear the scene before even investigating it.

Here are a couple examples, one from a couple years ago and another from recently.

This picture of is of shoes lost during a shooting in Dayton, Ohio. A popular meme spread the idea that because there were  this many shoes, it was obviously a false flag operation. However, anyone who has ever been in a panicked crowd might imagine how easily shoes come off as people take flight.

The second picture is of a mannequin in an ICU unit. Because even mainstream reporters cannot simply walk into an ICU and start filming people without patient permission, training mannequins were presented in some covid-19 news stories. The mannequins provided plenty of fodder for ardent misinformation artists to shoot out the idea that the virus was faked.

Now I have no opinion here on whether or not shootings are used to supply political fuel. And I have no opinion here on whether or not the virus is being used to create a police state. I am merely pointing out that lost shoes at the scene of a mass shooting is not an indicator of conspiracy. That decency and privacy prevents the filming of the sick and dying in an ICU is no indicator either.

If we want social media to change,  we  must address the real issue of dumbing down, the removal of written material and the raising of pictures, because our juvenile regressed minds prefer pictures to investigation. And secondly, we must  demand the return of the ‘recent or most popular’ option from the Zuck.

And please, support indie authors.

The Complete Patriot’s Guide

Ethan Indigo Smith’s book, The Complete Patriot’s Guide to Oligarchical Collectivism: Its Theory and Practice, is an insightful exploration of history, philosophy and contemporary politics of today’s heavily institutionalized society.

An inspiration for positive, peaceful individual action, The Complete Patriot’s Guide is pro-individual in its perspective and, although political, discusses our society and its institutions from neither left-wing nor right-wing perspectives, exploring history, philosophy and contemporary politics relative to the fictional work of George Orwell. Layered with insight, it is in part a literary exploration of the themes of Orwell’s 1984, and provides solutions for individual and collective empowerment.

The Complete Patriot’s Guide to Oligarchical Collectivism is available here on Amazon.

Recommended articles by Ethan Indigo Smith:

About the author:

Activist, author and Tai Chi teacher Ethan Indigo Smith was born on a farm in Maine and lived in Manhattan for a number of years before migrating west to Mendocino, California. Ethan’s work is both deeply connected and extremely insightful, blending philosophy, politics, activism, spirituality, meditation and a unique sense of humor.

You can connect with Ethan on Facebook, check out his author page on Amazon, or visit his new websites, Geometry Of Energy and Meditation 108, where Ethan offers lessons on individuation, meditation, the conceptualization of energy, and the metaphysical significance of 108.

Ethan’s books include:

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