With the increasing pace of information exchange in the world, social media outlets seem to be littered with junk information that makes it difficult to discern fact from fiction.
Certain websites invade social media feeds like Upworthy and Buzzfeed. They attract visitors and ad revenue with article titles earning the term clickbait.
People seem to share and spread information to one another more than they check for validity but fact checking seems to be an increasingly difficult activity with news and information. Using search engines and finding research papers is an acquired skill and it does not seem to get easier.
A good example of over-sharing is when 14-year-old student Ahmed Mohamed was arrested by local police at MacArthur High School in Irving, TX, when he brought a digital clock in a black suitcase. When a video of Mohamed’s recounting of the event, and how he claimed to invent the clock device, was posted Sept. 15 on YouTube, viewership increased to over 2 million. For the next few days I read comments about people angry about racial prejudice over Mohamed’s arrest and how it was a terrible injustice because of his Muslim heritage using the hashtag #istandwithahmed.
After close examination of the clock by some curious investigators, the components seemed to be from an old RadioShack digital alarm clock from 1986. Mohamed merely repurposed the clock in a different case and hardly invented anything worth mentioning.
For getting a bunch of attention on YouTube, Mohamed received a scholarship, an internship offer from Twitter and was showered with gifts from the White House.
People raced to support a movement providing needed social justice towards ending racial prejudice and discrimination still prevalent in American society today but it had little to do with Mohamed himself.
In a few months’ time, or even weeks, I think people will only remember Mohamed’s name, who actually invented nothing. Little to no one will remember the name of MacArthur High School or the racial prejudice the administration presented.
I’m concerned that the nation is more actively involved in social media sensationalism over merit. Mohamed didn’t deserve the amount of attention he received for his minimal educational achievements when there were, and still are, plenty of young students that study and achieve much more than Mohamed. Students like Taylor Wilson built a fission reactor when he was 17 and David Hahn, known as the radioactive Boy Scout, attempted to make a breeder nuclear reactor at 17 as well, and these students are nowhere near the same level of recognition as Mohamed when they worked so much harder to learn and develop as scholars.
However, I don’t blame Mohamed for any of the things that happened or the support he received after his arrest from the school. Amidst the rapid exchange of information today, people rally over political ideas and issues they know nothing about just because they saw an interesting image or a reposted news story on the subject, and it infuriates me. Google a subject or event and fact check the information before writing a passionate comment or post.
Mohamed’s arrest was still unnecessary. A common issue in this country is the dramatic consequence of arrests and suspensions in public schools. It is a permanent mark on one’s school record and makes it difficult to attend other institutions or get work.
Like Mohamed’s case, arrests are not limited to violence. A controlled experiment or a harmless school prank that put no lives in danger can provide difficulties for students at major points of their life.
I hope Ahmed Mohamed succeeds at whatever career he intends to pursue, but through his own efforts and work.