You probably learned this lesson early on in your education: check your sources.
Here’s a shocker: Wikipedia is going to have mistakes in it (some might argue that having mistakes is part of its charm). People will make YouTube videos that are both offensive and false. Blogs will be written and published that have no sense in the world of reality. People will say things that are not true on Twitter (which c-list celebrity died today?). Like everything else in this world, you have to be careful (and skeptical) of everything you read, consume and even comment on and contribute to.
A lot of people don’t even know that they are wrong in the first place.
The filters are gone when it comes to Social Media. Because anybody can have a thought and publish it to the world in text, images, audio and video it doesn’t mean that it’s true or accurate. It just means that it is available for consumption. It used to be that we had filters (this could be an Editor, Publisher, Broadcaster, etc…), and yes they made serious mistakes too (just check out Craig Silverman‘s amazing book and Blog, Regret The Error), but we had some bearing on how to respond, correct and even have that content centralized.
The new Social Media-driven Web is not as much about black and white news as it is about opinion.
Understanding who the person is behind the opinion is an integral part of understanding how valuable and reliable the content is. Someone with a million followers or thousands of readers may be completely lacking in both experience and education. Just today, I was reading a Blog post from a very respected Marketing Blogger when I noticed that many of the seventy-plus comments on the Blog post were attacking the content because the Blogger’s main point/issue was based on the use of a word that they clearly had the wrong definition for (thus making the crux of their point completely off-base). Instead of coming clean and admitting that they didn’t truly "get" what the word meant, they continued to defend their position. The interesting part of the Blog post came from subsequent commenters who defended the Blogger simply because they like their content or feel an attachment to the community (herd mentality at play).
This just clutters the universe.
If you’re trying to make a point and you don’t even know the true definition of the words you’re publishing, you’re credibility is at stake. The other – and more important issue – is that the reader will also be confused because there is no clarity from the comments – just some back and forth from those providing the true definitions to those defending the Blogger simply because they like the person.
It’s up to every individual.
The only way to really trust the content is to be like the cops and do a thorough background check on everyone you respect and follow. Just because someone shows up at the top of a Google search or seems to have a lot of friends on Facebook, it does not qualify them to be regarded as a trusted source. Don’t get me wrong, publish away. Publish everything. The only way we’re all going to learn and grow is by how we develop our thoughts in public forums (and there’s few forums that beat Social Media when it comes to freedom and expression), but have the levity to know (or even tell your audience) that you’re simply grappling through an idea (and that some of that reasoning could be flawed).
There’s nothing wrong with being wrong… right?