In my work as a copywriter for health sites, it’s impossible to quantify how valuable Google is to me – being able to access studies in medical journals is just one way my life’s been made easier. But there’s an area outside my working day I’d like to highlight, and that is myth-busting on social media.
No, I’m not talking “look at these pics of an actual mermaid!” clickbait hoaxery (although, that is a thing) – I’m talking about wrongheaded statements and damaging faux reports that stoke violence and division in society. Using Google means being able to track what’s real and what isn’t, and being able to post links that give the truth. Two examples that come to mind:
During 2014/15 whenever some heinous terror attack happened and people were moved to say something on social media, it became trendy to ask: “Yes, but look – no-one is reporting this tragedy or that tragedy – don’t they also matter?” It would take no more than 5 minutes on Google to track down at least 10 reports from news sites all over the world to prove that ALL tragedies were being reported.
At the start of 2016, a certain political leader in SA made a statement to the effect that one couldn’t prove how long the KhoiSan had been in Africa by just looking at a few paintings on a wall. Once again, it took less than 5 mins on Google to source the academic time-lines, sources and methods of calibrating how long they’d been here. This isn’t about being right, it’s about being able to bring something viable to a discussion. That particular thread on social media went on well into the night with links being traded and us learning a lot about middens, clans and carbon dating processes. A long-standing confusion was cleared up.
There are so many more cases – discovering how many provinces are still using bucket-system toilets; just lately, being able to find at least 2 links to really big crowdfunding initiatives that helped South Africa university students with fees and protestors with money for legal assistance. All with Google.