Russ Kent: The truth is hard to decipher on social media

I study people all the time.

I do it at sporting events, while getting groceries, while I’m perusing social media, if I’m looking for kitchen gadgets at Ollie’s in Mansfield.

I want to know what makes people tick.

It would have been nice to make a living trying to figure that out.

If I had not gotten into journalism — and if I didn’t hate going to class so much at The Ohio State University — I may have ended up as a sociologist.

But here I am.

I blame my lack of a sociology degree on my love of socializing.

Ironic? Is it not?

While attending OSU — first at the Mansfield branch, and then in Columbus — I struggled with my attendance.

There were many mornings in Mansfield where I ended up somewhere eating a good breakfast with friends when I should have been in class. And if you skipped an 8 a.m. class. It was easy to skip the 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. class, too.

When I moved to Columbus, my attendance didn’t improve much. So I changed my class schedule, opting for afternoon classes. That way I could stay out a at night, and sleep later in the morning.

But because I waited for the spring quarter to try that plan. It failed miserably.

By the time my afternoon classes were ready to start, warm days had arrived. Believe me, there was nothing better than walking through The Ohio State University quad when Frisbees were being tossed, dogs were being walked and college students were out sun-bathing. The aroma of Tropicana coconut-scented suntan lotion was a pleasant distraction, which led to coconut-flavored pina coladas at a local bar.

And that was the end of afternoon classes for me.

Which left me with evening classes, which honestly, is the dumbest idea anyone every came up with. So you can guess how that turned out. By the time I was ready to go to class, my roommates had already arrived home with a keg, or a 12-pack or something equally delicious and wet.

I lived in an old house on East 18th Street. It was just a block from High Street.

Evening classes are a bad idea period. But when you are just a 100 feet from High Street, or you have a bar in your house named the Snake Pit, evening classes are in impossibility.

Six or seven of us lived in that apartment during the week, which led to many a temptation. But on the weekends, the population of that house swelled to 15, sometimes 20 people, which made studying an after-thought.

And that’s why I’m a journalist.

I chose the easy way out.

Writing was easy for me. I had a good imagination. I read newspapers daily — sometimes three or four of them — and I had a keen interest in the all news: sports, politics, business, the comics and even movie and TV reviews.

So, I became a journalist.

It was fun, at first. I started in sports and then moved to news.

Many of the athletes I read about now are the sons and daughters of athletes I covered during my first stint at the Galion Inquirer.

Back in the day, when newspapers were the only game in town, journalism was a lot more fun, and a lot more pure.

We reported and we wrote. And we did it well, because that’s all we did.

And then Al Gore invented the Internet.

Journalism has never been the same.

Today, unfortunately, journalism is about writing and reporting, but also about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. The social media aspect of journalist is not what many journalists signed up for. But we make do, because we have to make a living.

Most of us still love reporting and writing. We put up with the social media stuff, because it has become an integral part of the job.

Which gets me back to sociology, which is the study of human society and human interaction.

This is a difficult time to be a journalist.

People don’t like us. Readers don’t trust us. The people we write about don’t like us. There are fewer and fewer of us to do more and more work, which leads to more errors in copy.

However, this is probably be the greatest time in history to be a sociologist.

I always want to know what people think and do. But more importantly I want to know why they think the way they do and why they do the things they do.

I think I read people pretty well. I know when they’re feeling guilty or they’re in love or they’re trying to hide something, or when they’re lying to me, or when they’re trying to fool me.

If I am chatting with someone, I’m trying to figure out what makes them tick.

The Internet makes that more difficult. It is easy to lie and fool people when you only are typing back and forth.

Facial expressions, subtle body movements, slight pauses in speech patterns and the inability to look you in the eye are pretty good clues when trying to unravel a person.

Those useful tools don’t exist over the Internet.

So a lot of people are fooled, which means a large part of the world’s population is in danger of being manipulated.

That’s s a huge problem with society today.

And if I were a sociologist, I would be paid well to figure out why people are so easily fooled … too easily fooled.

My hypothesis goes like this. It’s easy to fool someone if you never meet them or talk face-to-face with them.

I’ve heard it said a thousands time, that sarcasm doesn’t work on social media.

It doesn’t translate well to Twitter or Facebook.

But that also means, truth and honesty on social media are impossible to differentiate from lies and deceit.

The rise of social media and the lack of face-to-face meetings, of personal intimacy, are doing a whole lot of harm to the world’s population.

First impressions are always important. People can read other people.

But if the only contact people have with one another is via social media, first impressions are irrelevant.

That lack of personal intimacy and connectivity is not conducive to understanding one another.

We need more sociologist to figure out what makes people tick.

Some people are easy.

Many are not.

Some people do fool me, but that number is whole let less than the number I think I have figured out.

And that’s OK.

I’ve learned through life to accept people as they are … good, bad, genuine, fake, noble or just genuinely rotten.

I’m a good listener, and I’m pretty good at reading emotions and facial expressions. So, for the most part, people don’t fool me.

I just wish I got paid for that talent.

Russ Kent



Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at [email protected] with comments or story ideas.