Here’s A Serious Question: Can We Learn Anything At All From Social Media?

stack of wooden blocks with social media icons on facing surface

Good heavens, of course we can learn stuff from social media! Millions use it. Surely those millions must know something useful they can pass on?

But . . . how do we know if we can trust what we learn from social media? Increasingly, it seems we can’t.

Consider housing, for example. For several years now, a concept called the ’15 Minute City’ has been circulating worldwide. The idea is that larger communities might serve citizens better if they are divided up into neighbourhoods, with each neighbourhood served by everything an occupant might need, residence (housing), food, recreation, place of work, etc., none more than fifteen minutes by walking/biking for any individual.

The idea has been attractive to many in different countries, and some cities around the world are actively considering how they might change by-laws to support such a cityscape evolution.

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada’s fifth largest city by population, has been looking into the 15 Minute City. Global News provides a summary of both the 15 Minute City as well as Edmonton’s interest. But there is an odd shadow cast across this idea. Read more at Global NEWS: 15-minute cities: What they are, and why some people are lashing out against them.

It’s the ‘lashing out’ part of the article’s headline that casts the shadow. There are numbers of people who apparently believe that there may be sinister intentions behind this 15 Minute City, which threatens the fundamental freedom of its citizens. Huh?

Might we believe that Edmonton just happens to have more folks with screws loose in their brains than other cities? In fact, this story is just the tip of the worldwide conspiracy iceberg. Another media outlets — The Guardian — is at the same time reporting on this anti-freedom conspiracy on a far larger and wider scale. We’re not just talking about some Klan of Canadian Kooks here, but a widespread body of knowledge and actions being questioned via social media around the world. Read more: In praise of the ‘15-minute city’ – the mundane planning theory terrifying conspiracists

Hey, there are millions upon millions of social media readers and posters. Doesn’t that mean that at least some of those folks might be correct about a conspiracy to rob citizens of their right to inter-neighbourhood travel, and prepared to turn any and perhaps every city into a collection of police-state fenced gulags?

Adding to the problem of sorting out true from false in this housing story, there is disturbing news about a new breed of search tools that ‘help’ us search the internet. This AI-based (Artificial Intelligence-based) wave of future learning has been flubbing the job and quite possibly deliberately lying to us. Read more in Vice: Users Report Microsoft’s ‘Unhinged’ Bing AI Is Lying, Berating Them

Which brings us back to the question in our headline: Now, and in the near future at least, can we learn anything at all from social media that we can trust?