In this day and age, we have unlimited access to information right at our fingertips. With seemingly infinite amounts of news, information and sources, it can be hard to determine which ones are credible and reliable.
Social media is one of the main ways people get their facts and news nowadays. While there are massive amounts of good sources online, there are also many biased and fictitious ones as well. This makes it difficult to navigate the web and distinguish between the two.
It seems harmless when we scroll through our Facebook and Instagram feeds and see news shared as if it was a meme, but this can be incredibly dangerous if the information being shared is incorrect. Many people are prone to believe anything they read off the internet, and when false information is shared over and over again, it begins to blur the truth.
We must be careful consumers of information and approach all news and facts shared online with caution. It is easy to be fooled into believing something we read, but we must remember that essentially anyone with a computer or phone can generate content and share information.
Our minds are not for sale, and in order to ensure that we are not being manipulated into believing false facts and biased news, we must be able to check our sources and investigate the truth on our own. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself to ensure that you are getting credible information and news.
1. IS THE SOURCE BIASED?
When fact-checking any form of information, you should be checking to see who the source is and if they are associated with any particular group or affiliation. Being associated with a specific group or set of ideals doesn’t automatically mean the source is not credible — it means that you must be aware that they are sharing information that is advancing their cause or opinions. Does it include accredited research? Or is it opinions of the authors that are supported by cherry picked facts? It can be difficult to discern biases in research, but the research should be published in a peer reviewed journal and should have credible information cited. When attempting to discern if a source is biased, you should pay attention to whether the source is meant to be informative or persuasive, which gives insight into the author’s intentions. Usually fact providing sites are less biased — for instance a website ending in “.edu” will usually be more credible than a “.com”.
2. WHERE WAS THE INFORMATION ORIGINALLY GATHERED? IS IT A PRIMARY SOURCE OR A SECONDARY SOURCE?
A primary source is a first-hand account of an event or the data generated from research, including newspapers, art, photographs, research and letters. Secondary sources are interpretations of primary sources, which includes analyzations, criticisms and reviews. Anyone can spin a primary source into a certain light in order to make a certain argument. This is why we must be careful to check the primary sources and come to our own interpretations.
3. WHO IS THE AUTHOR?
Ask yourself if the authors and research cited reputable and with good credentials? Are the authors experts in their fields or topics? Are there more sources and information by the authors about the same topics? These questions will help you determine if the person or people that are providing information are worth listening to.
These tips can help you better navigate the endless information that is floating around on the web. The most important thing to keep in mind when coming across news and facts is that you should gather as much information from all different sides and sources and come to your own informed opinion.