#PRinHistory: The View from 2039: “FAKE NEWS”

Fake News

Today we’re trying a different exercise on #PRinHistory. We’re hopping in a time machine to the future in order to look back on the “past.” Come with me. Our destination: 2039.

Specifically, we want to look at the impact of one smoking gun of an offender, which crept up on us like a slowly metastasizing cancer with the rise of social media, and exploded into a practical force of nature around the Presidential Election of 2016. Those of us who were alive that time remember a lot of vehement ugliness, and mushrooming instances of FAKE NEWS.

Well, that’s definitely still around.

What’s interesting, though, as you walk through the landscape of 2039 – people glued to the fold-able pocket phone screens that have finally been engineered, listening to videos on Bluetooth headphones (nary a wire or jack in sight) and typing on holographic keyboards – is that you realize each of these people is existing, almost, in his or her own separate universe. For some of these people, those universes are actually populated exclusively by fake news items, depending on their emotionally-based worldview and what they do or don’t want to believe. All news items popping up in their feeds, of course, are algorithmic-ally curated for them. Friends on their social accounts who post too many opposing views drop quietly, virtually unnoticed, from their radars.

It’s a nicer place – with everyone choosing their own realities, there are fewer ugly internet brawls, but this has left corporations in an interesting spot. They’ve had to research – exhaustively – the viewpoints and social positions of their own target markets. Particularly difficult is the lot of businesses whose products and services might be attractive to a wide variety of people. In fact, a new watchdog organization has popped up that aggregates the stances taken and news items associated with each well-known or up-and-coming corporation, so that people can be sure they’re supporting organizations that align with their views.

We see that the rise of fake news and the need to research and verify so many pieces of information (among other forces) has turned our formerly monolithic “media” into a variety of channels of information. In fact, in 2039, people don’t even call it “the media” any more. They just ask you about what pops up in your “viewstream.” People easily (and nearly exclusively) form communities with those who are watching and listening to the same things.

When looking back at the past, we see that around 2016, people began to talk about PR’s merge with marketing, and noted that the separate existence of each discipline was becoming more and more murky. By 2039, we see PR’s rise as the major activity of business and corporations – because in a fake news-boggled, “post-truth” universe, trust is a more potent currency than it’s ever been before.

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