Why we need factivism
When the World Wide Web was released upon humanity, it ushered in the dawn of the Information Age. In the beginning, it was a tool for the privileged few, often connected to universities and college dorms with access to both knowledge and high-speed Internet connections. There was a high barrier of entry to join this world, with a few static text-based webpages (with one or two low-resolution images at most).
Then came the blogs with interactivity in form of comments. A bit later on came the web 2.0 movement where social interactions were the most important component. Early social media platforms like MySpace and Facebook were in a race trying to become the biggest social media hub for mainstream users. Twitter and other micro-blogging platforms entered the game and attracted mainly tech-savvy early adopters discussion the latest tech news.
Now, a few decades down the line since the birth of the Internet, it has grown into a different kind of beast. In a way, it has been democratized and is available to about 5 billion people now according to Statista. Long-form blog posts gave way to selfies and short-form sponsored videos on Instagram, at the same time as Twitter has become an important arena for politics and culture as well as troll factories and conspiracy theories. Then there is TikTok. Let’s just say that times have changed a lot and the communication of facts need to change as well.
You can find a lot more data about the Internet today on Our World In Data .
Partly hidden in this data, lies another layer, which is the fact that the Internet today is flooded with political polarisation and subjective opinions and a sort of love-hate relationship with the digital idols of our times; the influencers.
In this infinite universe of content, it often seems that valuable facts are often drowning in the noise, or just aren’t visible or engaging enough, to balance the scale against disinformation, hatred, ignorance and arbitrary opinions.
In the year 2022, for instance, we still find ourselves in discussions with people arguing that “the climate has always changed” which leads to “because it always changes it might not be our fault” or “so if the climate change we’ll just adapt to it”.
Well, the latter is true, we will need to adapt to a changing climate, some of us by small changes to a well-functioning life and others will need to adapt by fleeing their country and try to find refuge in other countries where they will meet resistance from ever louder anti-immigration groups. But this is not the point of this text, the point rather is to reflect on the fact that we have tens of thousands of pages filled with data and scientifical analyses telling us in great detail how the climate has changed and what existential risks lie in front of us.
The data and facts are there, the problem is the general public doesn’t have time to read scientific reports that are thousands of pages long. So the majority of the information doesn’t reach outside of the circles of academia and/or climate activism.
Right now the facts need to be both defended and spread, on all fronts and platforms, be it in the digital or physical space. They should always be under scrutiny and facts change over time, but if we as a society don’t make use of the accumulated scientific knowledge, we are destined to make some massive mistakes that we can not afford to do.
We need to work together, fine-tune our persuading skills and be culturally and technologically savvy. In other words — we need to become factivists.
A factivist is a person who:
- Uses science-based facts from reliable sources.
- Tries to be pragmatic and stay away from political polarization.
- Is respectful and tries to understand other people’s perspectives.
- Uses creative persuasion to convey facts to others.
- Collaborates with people in different disciplines.