The Internet sphere of Cameroon has experienced a surge of viral content on social media over the past couple of weeks. Most of the viral content serve to stir up emotions or create an alert and with such content, people don’t question what they are told simply because emotions are involved. It is really simple; because it feels true that makes it true. The question on the minds and lips of everyone is; “How do I know what is true online?”

Social Media is a very fertile ground for conspiracies, propaganda and hoaxes. So much information is being circulated and made available on social networks and this nurtures the phenomena known as confirmation bias which is the urge to believe only things that only confirm what you already believe to be true, among users of these networks. We human beings have a very strong inclination to believe what favours us, even if it is clearly unrealistic. We just may ask: “Why spoil a good story?”

In the social media era with conspiracies, propaganda and mistruths flying around like dust particles, there’s an urgent need for us to be careful with the information we consume, for the information and the facts need to be checked. Every man has a right to be wrong in his opinion but no one has the right to be wrong with facts. Facts are facts!!! Yet despite the critical nature of facts, politicians and propagandists keep breathing mistruths (like their lives depend on it) and we keep believing them ignorantly.

The culture of fact-checking is conspicuously absent as many people don’t care and those who dare verify the facts don’t always seem to believe in the new information thanks to confirmation bias. The essence of fact verification is to erase misconceptions especially in the present era of social media dominance.

The audience is attracted to people who appear (and are not necessarily) more politically knowledgeable, sophisticated and are deeply interested in politics. This same audience is good at ignoring information which is against their ideological preferences. They really like believing what their side believes and they seek but information that confirms those beliefs. They have a strong tendency to incorporate any new information in a way that supports their present opinion. Worth knowing is that the most misinformed people are also the most confident in their misinformed ideas and many of them resist correct information when it is presented. Now that’s ludicrous.

Our various Christian doctrines teach us that the truth shall always prevail but we can’t help but wonder why lies and hoaxes flourish out there and particularly on media. These falsehoods get repeated more than a lot via media. This repetition helps a lie stick to the brain of the viewer or the reader for it is easy to believe in an idea which is more familiar. Hence, the strong believe in viral contents. Because of mistrust in the system, there’s a lot of confirmation bias in the consumption of information especially when their beliefs make the other party or the system look bad. It is really hard to change people’s minds once they believe a piece of misinformation even when there is new and better or contradictory data.

Fact checking serves to increase the credibility and trustworthiness of the information in articles and documents. And this is based on independent research and proper reporting skills.

To attempt an answer to the question of who checks the fact checker that has been trending on social media these days, I would say the author of the fact (those who carried out the acts) are the ones to check the fact checker and this could be through public statements or press releases by the authors of the facts.

So while consuming information, you are advised to consume wisely and responsibly for even salt looks like sugar. One thing is ever certain, ignoring the facts doesn’t change the facts.

By Nkwain Carlson


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