"Miscommunication is the root of almost every problem in our world." Think about this statement. Ponder about it. This is a fundamental notion I have conceived as a writer and a student of thought & philosophy. I like to compare miscommunication as having the properties of fire, a destructive and overbearing force that cannot be underestimated.
Communication is vital in our day to day lives. But it is equally essential that the communication is done correctly and in an orderly manner, and there must be no room for error. "Half a truth is often a great lie." This famous quote by Benjamin Franklin accurately conveys the context. Sometimes it can be a matter of life and death.
I will illustrate my point with a real-life event. My father has recently narrated an incident about one of his friend who supposedly discovered the cure for diabetes. This man was told that if you eat the fat of cooked lamb kidneys, that will reverse his medical condition. He was also told that the results were 100% guaranteed and something that pharmaceutical companies wanted to suppress. And guess what this man did? The poor man when ahead. And he consumed the lamb’s kidney daily, without fail for a staggering amount of 3 months. Eventually, he had developed some skin rash reactions, so he went for a routine general check-up. When his blood results were processed in the laboratory, the doctors rushed to see if he was even alive or standing. Apparently, his results came out indicating high levels of triglycerides. His health parameters thankfully came under control after some months. But that cost him lots of stress, the inconvenience of visiting the doctors frequently, and the high cost of medication.
So you see, it can be a matter of life and death. I can cite countless examples, acts of violence orchestrated based merely on rumours, acts of terrorism carried because of misinterpretation, the countless human conflicts we could have potentially avoided, but we didn’t. And so on.
With the advent of technology, the viral spread of fake and unconfirmed news has exploded, boiling ignorance, bigotry, fringe and fanatic elements to new heights. And don’t get me started on the stories, news and messages we receive on Facebook and Whatsapp.
Few years back, I received a message on Whatsapp saying that on a particular night, I have to stand on my terrace with my Whatsapp application on, so the satellite of Whatsapp can change the paying status of my application from red to green (as the message claimed). That would ensure that I would never have to pay for the application. I received the very same message from at least five people.
These bits of misinformation have a cycle. They keep re-appearing after every couple of years. The problem is people believe them or forward them without a single thought or consideration. They transmitting these messages without cross-checking! It is incredibly irritating to receiving tons of forwarded messages, especially on the WhatsApp. Sometimes, some messages are related to job vacancies. It takes very little time on our part to check the source that is provided. Next, we have some pictures that are circulated about a lost kid and to contact a number. There might be a chance it is true and that it could be fake. But proper verification never hurts. Some dishonourable mentions are also messages about special offers promising great rewards if a link is forwarded to multiple contacts. Forwarded religious messages are double edge sword in today's world.
But there is one message of a extreme despicable level that unfortunately, I keep encountering. That an HIV+ factory worker has cut his fingers and poured HIV+ blood in Maaza bottles (a popular mango juice beverage in India) to infect the consumers indiscriminately. I have been receiving the same message for at least eight years.
Now that I have discussed this issue, I must arrive at the next important part: Coping up with these toxic strings of misinformation.
I classify and propose three steps:
1. Identify or verify the source of information. Ask the senders if the information they received is genuine. Some website on the internet will go the extra mile to verify the authenticity of the material.
For example: To check the authenticity of the news, you can go to https://check4spam.com/
It is a Bangalore based organisation that works on exposing hoaxes, says it is having trouble keeping up. "We receive around 200 messages a day from people asking us to verify forwards. It's a struggle to answer them at the speed they are coming in," says co-founder Shammas Oliyath, a techie. "Today, we have over 1,000 unanswered messages on WhatsApp. Around 70% are repeat posts." The site gets 250,000 visitors in a month on an average.
2. Education is one of the single most essential tools in combating this breeding pockets of misinformation. Be educated, be vigilant and be aware.
3. Be careful of what information you feed to your precious mind.
Our minds should be like a fortress, only allowing the verified and confirmed sources of information. Teach principles of scientific temperament, rationality and logic when coming across such bits. Just trust scientific backed knowledge. Please transmit information responsibly; if it is not verifiable, then it is better NOT to forward it.
As one quote by Paulo Freire (a famous Brazilian Philosopher) perfectly sums it up: “Only through communication can the beautiful human soul hold meaning.”
P.S: I delivered a short speech at the Riyadh Toastmasters Club about this topic on 4th December, 2017. I feel it needs to be addressed & said.