Friday, January 15, 2021

Whom do you trust?

It appears that Americans are much less trustworthy of people than they were.  In 1968, over half of Americans (56%) believed that generally most folks can be trusted.  Fifty years later, in 2018, they told surveys something different.  It appears that less than one-third (31.5%) believed that most people can be trusted. Of course, this comes as no surprise to anyone.  What is a surprise is that another difference between the surveys is that Americans routinely trust online businesses with their most intimate details and financial information.  We go to online doctors and tell them private information.  We purchase medicines from online suppliers and visit patient portals without a thought to their security.  We leave our credit cards, debit cards, and account information on file all over -- for the sake of easier ordering and bill paying.

We may not trust folks in general or the news media in particular but we seem to be fine letting social media broadcast the most personal details of our lives -- from marital disputes and divorces to our most private feelings.  In addition, we tell people when we are home and when we are gone -- without a thought to who all might be listening.  We use fairly predictable and common passwords for ease of remembering and we have all had some business or medical provider tell us that our information may have been accessed illegally.  Yet we seem fine with this -- better with trusting the unknown of online business and social media than we do the folks we meet in person.

We do not seem to trust police or politicians or clergy as much as we trust those whose online presence asks from us all sorts of personal information and expects us to cough up some money for the privilege of their friendship.  How strange it is that we are so trusting of some whose faces we never ever see and so resistant to trusting those with whom we interact on a regular basis!  The older you are, the more likely you are to be trusting (among Americans over 65, only 29% said that most people can’t be trusted).  On the other hand, the young, Americans aged 18 to 29, by more than 60% believe most people can’t be trusted.

Some blame Trump.  Some blame politics.  Could it be that social media is contributing to our mistrust of others?  After all, most of us are rather social isolated online -- hanging around with like-minded people while decrying those with whom we disagree.  Could social media be the culprit here -- magnifying disagreements and providing a forum for our skepticism to dominate the community?  You tell me.  My suspicion is that social media has not helped us as much as it has helped social media -- while at the same time allowing us to so very anti-social in our dealings with others.

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