Misinformation ruined my Polish Christmas.

However, what happens when one’s Christmassy wisdom get contaminated with bits of misinformation? What happens when fake-news and self-proclaimed scientific expertise emerge at the table? As a digital literacy advocate — should you fight back or stay silent?

Should you fight back in the name of humanity or stay silent as a symbol of compassion and forgiveness towards your misinformation oppressors? I decided to fight back. I presented my arguments logically (arguments defined here as claims backed by reasons that are supported by evidence) and in a relatively calm manner. I related to my personal experience and framed it in an accessible storytelling format. Finally, I tried very hard to stay compassionate, non-judgmental and understanding. Nonetheless, the overall conclusion of my Christmas Eve dinner was as follows:

Alicja is a naive, anti-Polish and self-hating feminist, unable to think critically and recognise fake from real science.

However, I have a feeling that I wasn’t the only one who experienced a family backlash this Christmas. The political divisions in families seem to be a bit of a trend at the moment.

For example, in the United States, the 2016 election had proved to split families. Similarly, many Brits find it difficult to get to terms with their relatives voting for or against Brexit. Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett reported on Stephanie’s story, who perfectly summed up my own reflection:

Source: https://nbcnews.to/2J69Uvh
Source: The Guardian https://bit.ly/2TpdAND
Polish National Movement’s march | Source: en.wikipedia.org

Retrotopia: “the current inclination of many people and whole countries to react to a world of violence and insecurity by closing themselves into tribes and erect barriers and walls”

Nonetheless, I’m trying to be critical when it comes to getting my information online and am keen to ensure that my sources are credible and most importantly — fact-checked.

A recent analysis of Polish social media landscape proves that there are more than twice as many suspicious right-wing Twitter accounts as there are left-wing accounts.

Accounts describing leftism as “cancer which is devouring Poland” or framing left-leaning individuals as “criminally insane or subhuman”, might be more visible for Polish Twitter users. Meaning that twice as many Polish Twitter users are likely to be exposed to examples of pseudoscience questioning the validity of my leftist’s existence. Are members of my family among them? Probably not. Twitter is not on their agenda yet. However, if Facebook is similarly contaminated with misinformation, then this would explain my family’s irrational behaviour.

Image source: https://bloom.bg/2FRqe1V
  1. “incorrect perceptions of facts dissonant with one’s partisan outlook are more pronounced among those who consume information from politically less diverse sources and who thus have fewer opportunities to correct their perceptions;
  2. the level of knowledge interacts with the strength of partisanship in such a way that the more knowledgeable partisans are more prone to misperceptions concerning dissonant facts”

“Trolling is an everyday thing”, said one digital-rights advocate, “All activists know it is a part of their life now” (Gorwa, 2017, p.10).

As the misinformation landscape has become more complex than ever, I often worry that a large part of Polish society might have :

Is the misinformed mind simply trapped in the ‘thought-defying’ info processing cycle?

Online trolling and misinformation seem to be everyday occurrences online in Poland. Does this mean that offline trolling is now also socially acceptable — even at the Christmas table?

“In a time when society is drowning in tsunamis of misinformation, it is possible to change the world for the better if we repeat the truth often and loud enough.” ― Alberto Cairo, The Truthful Art: Data, Charts, and Maps for Communication

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Alicja Pawluczuk

Alicja Pawluczuk

Dr Alicja Pawluczuk (AKA hy_stera) writes about digital humanities, feminism, and social justice → www.alicjapawluczuk.com + www.hystera.online