In today’s society, it is easier than ever to get a big picture idea of nearly every type of issue. With information increasingly being deconstructed into tweets and headlines instead of books and full articles, people have more superficial knowledge than ever before.
While it is certainly good for individuals to have an awareness of a variety of subjects, consuming such limited information often leaves the consumer with a minimal picture, and a misleading one at that. It causes people to evaluate situations based on intentions rather than results; ideology instead of policy.
I found this article important to write because of my own misunderstanding of a political situation just a few weeks ago.
Former presidential candidate and current US Senator Bernie Sanders recently introduced a bill cleverly titled “Stop BEZOS Act,” which aims to reduce the government assistance received by employees of large companies, such as Jeff Bezos’ Amazon. The goal behind the proposition is incredibly noble, and after glancing at a tweet about it I thought that it sounded like a clearly beneficial policy.
However, the devil is in the details. I do not doubt that Senator Sanders’ intentions behind this bill come from a good place, however, the economics behind the legislation proved to be faulty at best. The bill does not propose to raise the actual wage of these workers, but instead calls for a 100% tax against the businesses for every dollar spent by the government to supply welfare programs to its employees. This still might not sound horribly bad to some of you, but consider what the bill incentivizes.
Under this legislation, companies like Amazon would be incentivized to not hire workers that need to receive welfare. That could come in a variety of forms, the most obvious of which is potentially cutting back the number of low-wage employees it has.
However, more ominously, it would incentivize large companies to seek out employees who are married and without kids, due to the nature of the way benefits are dispersed. The fact that a policy proposed in seemingly good faith could serve to hurt single parent homes underscores the necessity of reading beyond the headline.
The point of this article is not to single out this one proposal, as I do not want to bore the reader with economic analysis and tax code explanations. However, if you are interested in learning more about this issue in particular, there is plenty of information out there; I would highly recommend reading Matthew Yglesias’ piece on Vox. The main point of this is to underscore the need to read entire articles instead of headlines or tweets. I know it sounds like a simple and sophomoric point, but it really needs to be emphasized, especially for our generation.
Seeing tweets in passing can have an sneakily lasting influence on your perception of subjects. I have found that consistently engaging with superficial material leads to me having formed opinions on issues, and even people, that I know absolutely nothing about.
This is could very well be do to my immediate inclination to always have an opinion, but if my social media is any indication, this applies to many others as well. I hope you all join me in decrying that irresponsible medium that is Twitter dot com and engaging with more substantive sources. Ok, It doesn’t have to be that dramatic, but maybe start clicking on the link instead of just retweeting the headline.
Jake is a senior studying economics and history with a certificate in environmental studies. How do you think social media impacts our perception of the news we read? Do you believe we are more or less informed as a society due to websites such as Twitter? Please send comments or questions to email@example.com.