Over the years, conspiracy theories thrive in wondering minds and fall where truth and misleading details meet. From the “Birds Work For the Bourgeoisie” to the Mandela Effect, many wonder what is fact and what is fiction.
TikTok, an everyday, rising social media platform that has influenced many people’s perspective on a number of topics, can help popularize conspiracy theories. These online creators do not require accountability or credibility to change one’s mind, just a TikTok account and a catchy video.
Conspiracy theories boil down to propaganda. Propaganda moves beyond government wartime movies, videos, or Rosie the Riveter, but it infiltrates people’s everyday lives. The propaganda the world sees today online still promotes a particular point-of-view, works to change behavior, and motivate action even though some of the information ends up being misleading, biased, or false. Propaganda makes discerning fact from fiction difficult. Because of the power of social media, people can create targeted ads with biased information or misinformation and coordinate efforts to change ideas and thoughts about a specific topic, group, or fact.
For example, personally, TikTok has made my opinion on a lot of subjects change, such as the exaggeration of Helen Keller’s achievements.
As we all know, Helen Keller was blind and deaf. She did many astounding things throughout her lifetime. From properly learning how to speak, to learning five languages, to flying a plane, one can say she was truly an American hero and national icon. What if someone told you some of her achievements are overly exaggerated? Like flying a plane. It is a lot different to have someone sit in the nose of the plane and maybe touch the steering wheel for two seconds than someone grabbing the controls of the plane and steering it for 100 miles. Or the fact she knew five languages. How can someone who barely knows how to properly speak English be able to speak five other languages? For that matter, who could have taught her other languages and how to speak them properly?
Because of the lack of modern technology, only one video recording of Helen Keller seems to exist. In this video she stands with her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Keller speaks only a couple of sentences, and it is very evident that her speaking was very impaired, almost incoherent. The video led me to read many articles stating that Keller was very well at speaking. Hearing with my own ears how she spoke, can these details be an exaggeration of her life?
Do not get me wrong. I believe anyone can do anything. I certainly believe that she learned Braille and did many of the other things stated about her life. Words may be forever, but an exaggeration is an exaggeration. It just bothers me that one may never know the truth about this national icon.
When users find themselves on an app they typically trust because users’ friends and family post most of the information they see, users become less likely to question what they see. People do not click on the majority of links posted online; they only read the headlines, misleading or not. Users share away without thought or checking it.
Because people receive news and information from a variety of sources and not just credible news sources, misinformation becomes rampant, making conspiracy theories more popular and widely shared as truth. The wrong information can lead to dangerous misinformation, such as Pizzagate, QAnon, 5G technology, and COVID-19 vaccines and denial. The important focus in all of this remains in checking the sources and the information. Find information from credible sources and not just in videos posted by random users. Just because something appears first in Google searches, trends on TikTok or YouTube, or aligns with one’s worldview, it does not make it true.