Your alarm goes off, maybe it’s about 7:00, 7:30 in the morning. You blink open your eyes and like almost 80% of other people, grab your phone. Immediately you’re catching up on notifications from the night, replying to Snapchat stories or texts or emails, and of course: reading up on the news.
Long gone are the days where you had to wait until 6 pm to know what was happening in the world. We now have access to it the second we wake up, 24/7. With so much information at our fingertips, any time we want it, how can we possibly begin to sift through what is real and what is “fake news”?
If you haven’t heard of “fake news”, it’s essentially misinformation under the illusion of being real. It is stories that have little to no reputable facts backing them up. But it poses a dilemma for the average person logging onto their Twitter or Facebook feed for their morning news: what is the truth? What is real and factual? And how can you tell?
The amount of information we have available to us is staggering, and the more we have the easier it is to fall into a misinformation rabbit hole. We also think within the scope of confirmation bias constantly: our brain will remember information easier if it fits in with what we already know or have strong opinions on.
“This tendency is extremely difficult to correct. Experiments consistently show that even when people encounter balanced information containing views from differing perspectives, they tend to find supporting evidence for what they already believe.” [ X ]
Add to the fact that social media is constantly tailoring our experience to show us more of what it thinks we like. Search up a specific brand, or item, and later that day ads will show up on Facebook or Instagram for that brand. So the more we look at a specific view, the more our feeds will show us just that. It makes it increasingly difficult to separate our own views and ideology from facts.
Not to mention fact-checking can be time-consuming.
You see an article on Facebook that aligns with views you already have-- are you going to Google and cross-reference the information presented to you? Or will you simply click “share now” and be on your merry way?
Facebook has recently added a feature that will warn users of pages that have been known to spread false information and even add penalties to people who DO spread false information to their feeds. These reports will be done by third-party fact-checkers and experts.
It seems education is key to being able to spot “fake news” or false information online. Sites have even created games to help (Bad News, Harmony Square, and Go Viral! to name a few) as well as informative sites, like Hoaxy, to help people become more aware of the spread of misinformation.
People have a right to their own opinions. But it is also important to be open and willing to challenge not only other people’s opinions but your own. There was once a time where we thought the world was flat-- things change, we are always evolving and new information is becoming increasingly available to us.
"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." - George Bernard Shaw
Only being shown one view limits us. We become closed off to our fellow man, bullheadedly stubborn when they try to share their side of the story with us. We become quick to anger, quick to jump on the “cancel” bandwagon without giving the other person a fighting chance. It is so, so easy to simply go with the crowd in many cases. But what if the crowd is a herd of lemmings headed for the edge?
At the end of the day, we are all human. Spreading false information can be damaging, and there is very little need to become heated in comments on online articles over the matter. Like this writer has said before, connecting to the human in front of you is the most important thing.