More on FAQ #106

106. What’s to keep countless unqualified photographs on social media from being labeled as “Guaranteed TCQ”?

Nothing at all! The public should expect to see plenty of preposterous social-media photos labeled “Guaranteed TCQ.”

In other words, much of the time the “Guaranteed TCQ” label will be meaningless.

But that’s actually a good thing.

The more that viewers become aware that they shouldn’t trust websites where anyone can anonymously say or put up anything no matter how “preposterous” it is — the better equipped the public will be to deal with the challenges of instantly judging published information in the 21st century.

A. How “digital” is different from all that has gone before

For tens of thousands of years, humans and their ancestors survived by learning to use the appearance of things to instantly judge those things’ trustworthiness. (For the most part, they did OK.)

Then the digital era came along to upend that knowledge.

One of the most fascinating aspects of digital technology is its ability to make things appear to be something they are not. (Examples would include a digital wristwatch that appears to have analog “hands” and a digital speedometer that appears to have an analog “needle.”)

When that newfound ability to “look like something it’s not” collides with something as old as human history — that is, the judging of things based on their appearance — there are bound to be a few decades of adjustment required.

Cultures all over the world are only beginning to adapt to the new reality that in the 21st century — exponentially more often than ever before — many things are not what they appear to be.

(Far from being immune to this cultural adjustment, photography is in fact at the epicenter of it.)

B. So what’s next?

The only way the world will adjust to “the new reality” is for billions of individuals to learn how to look at things anew — including “things that look trustworthy but are not.”

Content-providers certainly can do their part, especially by declaring when they are offering to the public trustworthy content and inviting scrutiny of it. Use of the “Guaranteed TCQ” label when appropriate is one way of doing that.

But the public bears at least as large a responsibility, in terms of recognizing that not all things that look equally trustworthy are equally trustworthy.

Learning when to trust the “Guaranteed TCQ” label, and when to disregard it, is part of the public’s learning curve.

C. The bottom line

Will the “Guaranteed TCQ” label be attached to unqualified photographs on social media? Without a doubt.

But if that helps to accelerate the public’s realization that “social media probably isn’t always the most reliable source for trustworthy content,” it is not at all a bad thing.