What do older generations misunderstand about yours

The younger generation will not solve the problem of fake news

All people think and act rationally only to a limited extent. Young people are not immune to fake news either, and their behavior will not improve public discourse - on the contrary. A replica.

Fake news and no end - or is it? If one believes a recently published article by Simon M. Ingold, the younger generations will one day make the problem of false news obsolete. Ingold aptly states that fake news contributes to so-called truth fragility, an increased uncertainty in the distinction between true and untrue. This promotes the disintegration of reasonable public discourse. The author sees older generations as particularly susceptible to this development.

Millennials and representatives of Generation Z, on the other hand, oriented themselves towards “radical authenticity”. Credibility and authenticity are paramount to them and therefore, so the conclusion, these generations act as a social corrective against the social consequences of fake news. This hope for the value system of younger generations is deceptive - it is based on three fundamental misunderstandings.

Not a generation issue

Anyone who portrays truth fragility as a generation problem is making a one-sided interpretation of the scientific evidence. The fact that older people share more fake news on social media is due, among other things, to the fact that they receive more relevant offers: manipulative micro-targeting is used to target groups that are receptive to specific topics.

Truth fragility is a primordial human problem and affects all generations. The Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon coined the term “limited rationality”. Accordingly, we think, believe and act rationally to a limited extent due to the scarcity of the resources “time”, “information” and “cognitive abilities”. Current research shows how this can explain political influence over social networks. The best-known examples in this context are the last US presidential election and Brexit.

It is also questionable whether younger generations even want to participate in the sensible public discourse that is being sought. Findings from political research indicate that for them “news enjoyment” dominates over “noteworthiness”. The entertainment value counts more than the critical examination of the truth of political content, and this tendency is exacerbated by the new media. In other words: prefer cat videos to (fake) news.

It's about self-marketing

If radical authenticity is to solve the problem of fake news, one must ask oneself what is meant by it. Authenticity stands for authenticity and a life in harmony with one's own values. It is a prerequisite for participating in reasonable discourse. Radical authenticity, on the other hand, is not primarily based on values, but stands for a one-sided positive self-image and its publicity-effective marketing. The two terms therefore have almost nothing in common.

Ingold believes that radical authenticity could create transparency and thus work against whitewashing, misappropriating facts and shameless invention. In this context he quotes the book "The Kim Kardashian Principle". In it, the author, Jeetendr Sehdev, declares public attention to be the greatest good. These days, this can only be achieved through radically staged authenticity, equated in the book with shamelessness.

Sehdev sees himself, Kim Kardashian and Donald Trump as successful embodiments of this principle. According to research by the New York Times, it is true that Sehdev bought hundreds of thousands of social media followers for his popularity. Reality TV star Kim Kardashian got her fame from her photographed rump, and Donald Trump's fame stems from destructive business and campaigning practices. The three figures thus appear less like a corrective than they are incarnations of the problem.

When it comes to radical authenticity, it is primarily the radicality of the staging that counts. Hedonism becomes a virtue, educational values ​​are marginalized. Just like fake news, radical, one-sided positivity lives from a low to non-existent truth content. The motto “Fake it till you make it”, popular among millennials, is inherently a fake. The debacle quoted by Ingold about the collapsed Silicon Valley startup Theranos is an outgrowth of just this motto.

Problem, not solution

The radical authenticity will therefore not reduce the problem for a long time. Rather, it reinforces the negative social consequences of the fragility of truth. It promotes indifference or even blindness to the truth. In this way, younger generations can be manipulated even more easily through disinformation and propaganda than the previous generations, which were shaped by global (cold) fronts.

Even today's digital stars, who, according to Ingold, offer orientation with authenticity, authenticity and passion, bring little improvement in this regard. They occupy the information space with staged trivia and use it for business purposes. The achievements of the Enlightenment threaten to further erode because of the whole superficiality.

Those who prefer to be entertained “on demand” than to find out more about institutionalized media are easily outraged, but difficult to get involved. The result is angry, volatile collectives instead of social correctives. This is also an attempt to explain why in times of gender discourse, Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street, a nation that claims to be an exemplary democracy elects a president who prefers to continually face the accusations of misogyny, racism and of nepotism than to work on solutions to social problems.

It is important to take decisive action against the threats mentioned. Truth fragility affects us all, it is further promoted by radical authenticity and does not dissolve by itself. Sustainable values ​​can only be negotiated and defended through a sensible discourse. This requires an enlightened attitude. In the spirit of Immanuel Kant: “Sapere aude” - that applies to all generations, each in their own unique way.