We Need to Be Both Credible and Likeable

While the Senate in the Philippines spends time scrutinizing those who produce and post content on social media, not much attention is placed on those who read these posts. Misinformation obviously occurs only when the audience learns something that is incorrect or false. Misinformation can not happen with a knowledgeable reader. Misinformation can happen only when a reader is not equipped with the entire story. Misinformation therefore requires conditions similar to that of a classroom. There is a teacher in front, supposedly with the knowledge, and pupils, who are about to learn. How learning occurs in a classroom is useful in understanding how social media can inform or misinform the public. It is through the mind of a reader that we can perhaps grasp what makes social media effective in either informing or misinforming. When the Senate first held an investigation on fake news months ago, senators did recognize how effective one blogger was. This blogger was Mocha Uson.

Above copied from CNN Philippines

There was one research study performed in the United States that looked at how learning outcomes correlated with two characteristics of an instructor, credibility and affinity. About 600 students and 10 instructors from high schools in the Midwest participated in this study. The specific lesson was on HIV and pregnancy prevention among adolescents, a sensitive yet important issue in our society. The study found that the credibility of an instructor correlated with how much students had learned while affinity was correlated with how much engaged students were with the lesson. Surprisingly, a teacher's credibility was not correlated with how much students valued what they were learning, and a teacher's affinity had nothing to do with how much students actually learned. We, teachers, need to be both credible and likeable.

There is only one way to combat misinformation and it is not shutting down Facebook. Similar to teachers, sources in social media need to be both credible and likeable for these to be effective. Apparently, some of these sources are. Credibility and affinity are both in the eyes of the reader. Traditional sources of information like news organization are becoming less influential because these are now perceived as no longer credible. What goes out as news from these organizations is now seen as heavily influenced by those who have money or power. Affinity has also gone down because too much space and time have been given to opinion makers and not the journalists. These pundits are obviously not known to respect others' opinions and they are often perceived as totally out of touch with their viewer's or reader's feelings. These so-called experts are in reality plain intellectual bullies.

When those from whom we expect truth have become untrustworthy and out-of-touch, a window of opportunity for misinformation has been opened.


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