Online Skepticism

It goes without saying that the internet has drastically altered the ways in which we as people gather and spread information. And on the opposite end of the  spectrum, it is also a fantastic resource for misinformation. We are bombarded with articles, videos, blogs, images, and status updates, but how do we know they’re accurate, and how often do we question their credibility? Everyone has that friend on one social media site or another perpetuating questionable forms of media, not giving a second thought as to the origin (my favorite are the reposts and reactions towards articles from The Onion–a satirical news source) . But why does this happen so frequently when the truth resides in the same vein as the fabrication, and digging deeper to discover the facts is often only a few clicks away?

 

The answer is fairly simple: it requires more effort. It’s much simpler to believe the things we read or hear without putting in any extra effort, and it’s relatively easy to succumb to the idea that people wouldn’t undergo that much of a hassle to spread the information if it wasn’t true, right? It’s easy to become infatuated with the readily visible, passing up scrutiny for comfort. I’ll admit, I am guilty of this behavior but I am striving to break out of that mindset. One of the better recent examples of my gullibility would be the “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways” video that went viral. I’m sure a lot of you have heard about this video. If not, I have provided the video below. An excerpt from the video explains that “it’s technology that replaces all roadways, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways, tarmacs, bike paths, and outdoor recreation services with solar panels. And not just lifeless, boring solar panels; smart, micro processing, interlocking, hexagonal, solar units.”¹ The video is repetitive and uses snappy buzzwords to hook the viewer into the idea, which seems brilliantly executed. I was caught up and so excited about this idea that I began preaching to others, and when confronted with deeper questions on the validity and application of the technology, I was at a loss and began to investigate the finer details.

 

 

As you can see from the video, they fail to mention any critical flaws that exist, which caused many to become suspicious of the claims. Of course, creating a video that highlights the negative aspects of a fledgling technology would impact media propagation and hinder potential funding. But failing to include any possible issues is misleading, and potentially detrimental in its own way. Yes, it would be fantastic if we could transform our roads into solar panels, but exactly how feasible is this project? One YouTube user, Thunderf00t, took it upon himself to post a video rebuttal and provide more accurate facts that the original video skirted, which I have provided below. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to completely ignore the possibility of utilizing this technology to better ourselves and our daily living–that is a dangerously limiting stance to take. If this technology continues to garner funding and recognition while addressing any major issues, then I am all for that! Science builds upon itself, and it is important to identify the errors through critical examination and experimentation. If the promotional video was forthright on the disadvantages of solar-paneled roadways, then perhaps people would be quicker to come together and formulate more suggestions and possible solutions on how to improve and smooth out those flaws.

 

 

It is because of viral media like “Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways” that I have taken it upon myself to be more skeptical, and I urge everyone to do the same no matter how enjoyable the article, video, blog, or image may be. Buying into something so readily hinders individual perspectives, and adopting complacency is akin to throwing in the proverbial towel. Question what you discover and don’t be afraid of those “heated” conversations; this is how we learn! And in the words of a truly inspirational character, “The truth is out there.”

 

 

¹Scott, Brusaw. (2014, May 18). Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com.

²Thunderf00t. (2014, May 31). Solar FREAKIN’ Roadways, are they real?. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com.

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