You can’t go far in this day and age without someone spouting off about “fake news”. So, as a generally good person, what the hell do you do with that fact? How can you stay informed without falling down a rabbit hole of false news and fake promises?
I have three simple things to consider that should cut through the noise and help you become better informed about current events (and possibly cut out the inevitable overwhelm that can hit when you find yourself bombarded with mountains of information!).
Information is readily available to us with the touch of a few keys or clicks of a mouse. It’s not always the right information and sometimes it takes a little independent research to find the truth. I wasn’t always naturally curious about things, but I had some very good teachers in junior and senior high who encouraged and taught me to question things in a constructive way.
Don’t rush to judge based on a single article or online post — even if that opinion is something you agree with. It pays to dig further into the issue and look at the opposing viewpoint without dismissing it immediately. You aren’t going to burst into flames if you’re a liberal and you’re caught reading a conservative piece (or visa-versa)!
Be Aware Of Your Emotions
It’s okay to feel upset about something you read about in the news, but don’t let it dictate your actions. If you need to take a breath to calm down, do it. Emotions rarely help de-escalate any situation and letting them call the shots is not going to help you recognize fake news.
One tip to help you: Many fake articles out there are deliberately written to elicit an emotional response from the reader in hopes that they won’t dig deeper!
Consider the Source
Always, always, always consider the source of the information you are reading. Everyone is biased, you are never going to find a piece out there that doesn’t have a slant of some kind. I tried to keep my liberal biases out of this piece, but if you’ve found them that means I’m human and I happen to have a belief system. You’re human and you have a belief system too, we’re all allowed to have that. Bias only becomes a problem when we don’t consider it in the information we consume.
Think about who the person/author of the article is, why are they telling you what they’re telling you? What purpose does it serve? Go back to point one in this post, being curious will help you answer a lot of the questions you might have about the motives of the author or journalist telling you about the subject you’re reading about.
If every single person in the world does these three things, I think we would have a better world. Certainly, there’d be a lot less of viral news going out there full of holes and half-truths. It won’t stop fake news from spreading, but it will help take away some of its power over you.
For more tips on how to spot fake news, I recommend you check out this helpful article from the Toronto Public Library.