January 21, 2018

Defending Truth in a Post-Truth World

by Jacquelyn Kelley ’17

Associate Editor-in-Chief

The Oxford English Dictionary recently declared “post-truth” to be the international word of the year due to its frequent utterance during both the Brexit vote and U.S. election. The OED defines the word as an adjective meaning “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Because Providence College’s mission emphasizes “veritas,” or truth, I cannot help but believe that our community is obligated to work toward reversing the “post-truth” culture that society has adopted.

But, where do we begin? We must first acknowledge the power that the Internet and social media hold over our society. Almost anybody can create their own website these days and pose as an expert with all the facts when, in reality, they are spewing conspiracy theories and personal opinions that are not founded in truth. What is worse is that with the click of a button, it is all too easy to share these factless claims on Facebook and Twitter where they may influence and misinform vulnerable followers. 

As much as I dislike starting “drama” on social media, a space where people have every right to voice their own opinions, I do think it is imperative that we use these platforms to promote truth, even if that means awkwardly calling a friend’s data or source into question. If we choose to scroll past an article or status with information appealing to a “post-truth” society, we may prove that we are able to discern between fact and fiction, but we fail to help our peers who may read the same article or status from a more naïve perspective.

It is our duty, as defenders of veritas, to assist others in finding truth too, so instead of simply overlooking a post that lacks credibility, we need to respond. Whether we comment on the post in question with some facts or share an article from our own accounts that sheds some light on the issue, we have, at the very least, proven our dedication to truth, but have hopefully helped others find truth too.

Because the Internet and social media dominate our everyday lives, and have undoubtedly played a significant role in the political outcomes of 2016, I have mainly focused on how we can work to transform our cyberspace from one appealing to “post-truth” culture to one appealing to fact.

However, there are certainly other ways we can defend truth too. If we suddenly find ourselves participating in conversations that have diverged from fact, we can use our own words to bring the discussion back around to the truth. When it feels as if nobody wants to hear the truth, perhaps we join a protest, and shout the truth so loud so that everybody hears it. In any case, we must remember that as members of a college community dedicated to veritas, it is our duty to defend truth in this “post-truth” world.

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