[Opinion] Manipulation, Deceit and Disagreement in the Digital Age

When most information can be known about other people via the swipe of a finger, the click of an Internet search, or through scrolling through a social media feed, how is it that so many people can still be deceived?

This is not really an information based question, this is a question about one of the key components of persuasion in the digital age, the dark side of it, if you will, deception and manipulation.

When only a few people and organizations used to hold the keys to both Truth and Power, it was hard to find out facts that disagreed with whatever the dominant narrative happened to be. Speaking truth to power was not an exercise for the faint of heart, either in a family, a community, or even in a municipality.

But, after over 25 years of commercialized Internet access to the masses, information (about people, ideas, processes, services, and on and on) seems hard to come by, rendering many people suspicious that they are being deceived but no quite knowing how. This feeling leads to the creation of various digital “tribes” that do battle to “correct the record” and “make the facts known.” But, at the end of the conflict, everything seems murkier than when the disagreement initially began and the residue of mistrust and anger lingers in the air.

  • Are we more deceived, or more informed?
  • Are we more oblivious, or more “tuned in?”
  • Are we more selective (“owning our own facts”) or are we more open to hearing and contemplating the “other side.”
  • Do disagreements and disputes have more weight online than they do in “real life” and if so, why?
  • Does anonymity and privacy lead to manipulation and deceit, or are they the only tools the powerless have to call the powerful to task?
  • What is the middle ground?

There are no easy, quick, or definitive answers to these questions. And after 150 years of “The Industrialization of everything” from education to social services, we in the Western world have been inculcated to believe that quick and definitive is the “new normal,” rather than being aware that, for many questions, there is more ambiguity than there are answers.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
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Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
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