Conspiracy theories and cognitive dissonance…and how to combat them

Can information security leaders help overcome the challenges wrought by a public that's increasingly ready to believe – and act on – even the wildest conspiracy theories?

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Your customers aren’t going to trust you simply because you know what you’re talking about, or what you’ve done in your past. They’re going to trust the team or leader that’s willing to listen to them, validate their concerns, empower them and explain what’s going on. This isn’t once-a-year training or an engagement campaign. You need to have continual engagement with your customers and answer their questions. You need to deliver regularly and be visible as someone willing to be part of their community and answering their questions. Your team needs to reflect those values.

How do we fix this?

There is no quick fix for addressing the issues of people feeling marginalized, disengaged and willing to believe conspiracy theories above facts. They believe them because of an absence of engagement, lack of communication and uncertainty. They’re looking for people to be leaders and anchors who are willing to stand up for them, help them understand this strange new world and help them feel fulfilled and accomplished. It takes time and engagement to build that trust. It takes going outside of yourself and being that strong person, even if you don’t believe it yourself.

The numerous examples of toxicity in the tech community contribute significantly to imposter syndrome, where many people minimize or doubt their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a fraud. Melody Wilding, in her article, “5 different types of imposter syndrome (and 5 ways to battle each one), discusses a type of imposter syndrome called “The superwoman/man,” which is where people are convinced they are phonies among their real-deal colleagues, causing them to work harder than everyone else to convince they can measure up. The constant barrages of insults and attacks on credibility against members of the security community are evidence this is an issue we have to address.

The most important takeaway from her article is that no one should have more power to make you feel good about yourself than you. While the tech community is full of toxic people, don’t stoop to their level. Be that strong person for others. Don’t give in to hatred and toxicity. Build that trust and engagement and communicate better. Be the tech person you wish you had in your life, instead of the arrogant know-it-alls who blow off people and are not empathetic. Being strong, confident and willing to explain yourself to others isn’t being weak or an imposter. It’s helping bridge the gap that causes people to believe conspiracy theories and brings both yourself and them to a better place.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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