How often does someone post something on Facebook which is total nonsense? How often do you call people on that nonsense? I have. The results aren’t pretty.
It is so easy to post something on Facebook that people forget that it is more or less a public forum. They expect what they post to go uncontested. When you push them on supporting their claim, the results are generally not pretty, especially if you’re someone who is aggressive at demanding supporting evidence as I am. Now the person in question might claim that you’re in no position to demand supporting evidence, but that is not the case at all. Hitchen’s Razor places the burden of proof on the person making the claim.
But so what? It’s only Facebook. Just let it go, right? That’s certainly one option, and I won’t blame anyone for taking that option. However, that is not an option I will allow myself to take. The fact that it is on Facebook: one of the largest public forums in the world, is a good reason not to sit by idly. One of the main reasons Hitchen’s Razor exists is to prevent an “infinite loop” argument where two people just go back and forth between “no it isn’t… yes it is…” However, another powerful effect of Hitchen’s Razor is that it protects against the spread of unfounded claims.
As people have said “if you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” However, that does not just apply to lies. Really if any claim is made, over and over again, eventually it will grow into the only “truth” society knows. This is true even if the claim starts out small. The impact of social media will cause it to grow into a larger and more obtuse claim as it spreads.
Facebook has also been partly responsible for the inability to hold a conversation. It is sad, but people have devolved to the point of “liking” or posting a link rather than actually making a point. It’s quite a shame that discussions have become little more than a two step process: like and link.
Prepare for Backlash
If you decide to go forward with pressing people on supporting their claims, expect backlash. Thanks, at least in part, to Facebook, people seem to have been entirely dulled to the idea that what they say might be repudiated. They might simply demand that you stop “bothering” them. They may even block you if you don’t back down. However, beyond including philosophy in early childhood education, there doesn’t seem to be all that many options left to push Hitchen’s Razor. The question is, will it work? If it’s just one or two people who demand supporting evidence, then probably not. However, if a large enough number of people begin to demand evidence for claims made on Facebook, perhaps there will be a shift.
I think that it is important to have an update for 2016. Both the Brexit vote and the US election results were shocking to many people, especially the mainstream media. But it is in part because we refuse to talk to each other, and simply want to live in our echo chamber that the votes turned out the way that they did and that we were so shocked by them. We cannot get a proper gauge of how people think, if we only allow ourselves to engage in discussions with people who think the same way as we do.