If the state of the world is depressing you, you are not a lone. Although it saddens me and is sometimes so grave to grasp, I believe education and awareness is the key to bettering the world — at the very least, enough motivation to create action. For that reason, I’m dedicated to reading as much accurate information as I can. If you’re in the same boat as me and want to become a more critical consumer of information aka avoid fake news, below is a great guideline to use as a starting point.
Identify the player
There is a lot of information out there, and as I’m sure you probably know, a lot of it is simply not true. The first step to becoming a more critical consumer of information is identifying the player – or anyone or piece of information deliberately tasked to blur the line between truth and fake news. When you give into fake news, it completely restructures our relationship with truth and we start to get confused with what is real and what is fiction.
When you notice a player, call it out. Tell the outlet you are reading that you want them to stop blurring the lines. Tell the influencer that you follow that you are sick of them advertising a product that doesn’t work or that they clearly haven’t tried.
Be careful of the data you trust
Spotting error-free data sounds a lot trickier than it actually is. Here is an example: “We talked to tons of people and discovered…” This might be obvious but the lack of volume here shows this isn’t data, but an anecdote. You should be wondering exactly how many people they spoke to, what the demographic and gender was, and what questions were asked. Translation, don’t believe everything you hear.
Equally, if you are given a number — challenge them on it’s origins. Don’t accept “we surveyed 100 people.” Instead, inquire what was being surveyed, how they measured it, and how long they gathered data — they should be able to back their claims.
Believe in experts
Experience over everything. Before you trust someone or a sentence even, decide what experience the person making the claims has. If someone sends you an article urging you to read it, be curious on why and more importantly on the author. Ask questions like: Is this by an acclaimed journalist? An expert? Was it published in a research journal? Basically, make sure each author you are reading from is credible before believing everything they say.
By believing fake news or allowing little things to slide, we get further and further away from the ability to discern what is real from what is not. By identifying the player, carefully selecting data, and only believing in experts, you will be that much closer to the journey of critical consumer thinking.