What an odd concept: that you can capture, advance, and build upon our lexicon with a new word each year. The 'Word of the Year'. We are in a time when we have so much content that the attractiveness of distilling our collective experiences into one word is tantalizing and mesmerizing.
According to Oxford Dictionaries, this word is supposed to carry "the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year." And 2016 gave us "Post-truth".
I've been thinking about this word: what does it mean for the future of journalism and media as a discipline or as a practice. When fact-checking is an afterthought and not forethought. When more people engage with Reddit and trending topics than with reports, data, or 'pundits,' whatever that means nowadays. When Facebook & Google are forced to do some soul-searching about 'fake news' and how to handle them.
As long as a story is “memetically successful”, it spreads and catches on regardless of truthfulness and truthiness. A new media ecosystem where nothing is true and everything is true. Whatever you believe or say, there'll be an audience out there waiting to cheer you on. Empowerment gone awry.
What will the world look like with this challenge to 'traditional' journalism? How will politics, communications, and corporations adapt to Harambe headlines and troll traction?
But the more interesting question is how did we reach "Post-truth" as the word of 2016? How is it that we got to this spellbinding point of disillusionment? Last year, the top-searched term was "austerity". I think the two are linked – austerity is the appetizer, post-truth is the main course. And as we consume more and more curated content, I'm fascinated by what language will say about us and what words will define us.
If nothing else, what a time to be alive.