They always tell us not to believe everything that we read on the Internet. But then, what exactly can we believe on the Internet? The tricky thing about the Internet is that even though we have access to tons of information, not all of it is quality information. So, how does one become a discerning reader?
People today seem to have a general distrust of the media. They say that the media is corrupt. That all news articles are fluff because media outlets will do anything to generate a bit of buzz. But is that the fault of the media, or is it the fault of the consumers?
Let me ask you a question. How much of your daily news information comes from Facebook? Or Twitter? I'd guess that a fair portion of it comes from social media -- and there's not necessarily anything wrong with that. The problem doesn't lie in the source of the information -- it lies in the receiver. Yes, there are a lot of sources out there that post fake stories just to get attention. And passive receivers will be easily duped by those stories. But part of being a well-informed citizen is learning to think for yourself. It's just a fact of life that having more options means having more information to sort through, and if you don't want to be "lied to" by the media, then you're going to have to seek your own answers. So what can you do to be an active receiver?
First, you can check the source of a story. Did it come from a reputable source or a notoriously biased source? Is it a firsthand account of a story? If not, did the author provide hyperlinks or references to provide evidence for their information? Make sure you actually read articles before you share them on social media- the title of an article doesn't always reflect the content.
You can also read more than one story. Some news sources are either liberally or conservatively biased, so you may only be getting pieces of the whole story. Read about the issue from another source to get more information.
Check the dates on the story. For whatever reason, stories or videos often go viral long after they were originally posted. If you're casually surfing and come across an article that was recently posted, you could reasonably (and wrongly) assume that because it was shared recently, the event occurred recently.
And finally, stay up to date on the news in general. theSkimm is a great way to get caught up on the important daily news. They'll send you a free email every weekday morning summarizing a few of the biggest news stories so you don't have to sift through a bunch of articles on news sites (pssst, sign up here). They're excellent at presenting the information in a humorous, yet unbiased manner.
If you really want to be an informed citizen, subscribe to one of your local newspapers! Or, if you're not into reading an entire newspaper every morning, follow your local paper on Twitter or Facebook. That way, you'll know that your news is coming from a reputable source, and not from your cat-video-sharing Aunt Nancy's posts.