Normally, I avoid all content related to politics and issues that might be polarizing. This blog is a form of escape for me where I can process my thoughts and get away from seems like constant bad news. I hope the content that I post can appeal to a wide variety of people regardless of their background. I feel like many news outlets (on both sides) have strong bias that has caused deep divides in America and that we need to find common ground as human beings. To that end I saw an article today published by USA today that I wanted to share and echo some of the sentiments contained in the article.
The core piece of the article is How to avoid disinformation and misinformation in the on Facebook and Twitter with a focus on the George Floyd protests. However, I would like to look at this from the perspective of how to avoid misinformation in the media; not just social media but all media.
There are people who like to create chaos for the sake of winding people up, internet trolls who love to get people riled up and will post false information just to make people mad. There are others who want to score political points against the “other party” and will selectively edit information, and some people don’t intend any harm they just pass on information that seems interesting to their point of view without even knowing if what they are sharing is true. We are all guilty of that last one to some degree if we are honest with ourselves. We see something that fits our thought process and seek to share the idea with others. It is one of the ways we connect as humans.
So how do we protect ourselves from misinformation and become a more informed public you might ask. One if the first things we can do is take a look at the source and try to think about the reputation of that source. Some places are known for publishing selectively edited materials. I like to think, is there more to this story?
Another common trap that we might fall for is a post or news item that is written to elicit strong emotion; especially if the post is designed to make you hate something. Why do they want you to hate this thing or person. I see this a lot with internet trolls; especially when they use broad statement to say “everyone ….insert statement here.” Broad terms like that are a red flag for me.
The last theme I would like to echo from the USA today article is, be empathic and remember there is a human being on each side of an argument. You don’t have to agree but do remember that just because someone does not agree with you does not make them bad or evil. There are some truly hateful people out there but that seems to be the exception not the rule. I can dislike a persons opinion or political view and still think they are a good human being. Maybe I cannot talk politics or religion with them but I can have a fun time talking about books or music with them. I can find value in the things we have in common.
To varying degrees I think we all need to take a step back and look at the biases we may have, whether conscious or unconscious, evaluate what the media is trying to tell us, and dig a little to make sure we are not falling for misinformation or passing it on.
I feel this is so important right now not only with the tense situations evolving around the country but also with an election on the horizon. I think most people realize that the political process involves a degree of throwing mud and putting a political spin on information. My call to action is; lets be an informed public, try to get to the underlying truth, and think for ourselves. When it comes to politics; lets take the information we evaluated and vote. I don’t care what party you belong to…be heard and vote.