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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Are you responsible when you spread information?

Bernie Sanders Could Replace President Trump With Little-Known Loophole

The most important thing in a functional society is a well-informed public. What we have now is not only uninformed but misinformed masses.

How do we combat this problem? Easy, we have to do some work. While I could give a long dissertation on what exactly that means, no one has the patience to read it all, so here are five quick steps that’ll fit in a meme…

1. Read first. Then share. I myself am guilty of basing comments or even clicking share based on the headline. This is the worst thing any of us could do. Stop being lazy.

2. Check the source (and their sources). In the age of new media true and valid information comes from non-traditional sources but so does a lot of garbage. Any article that posts facts, figures or quotes should provide a source for that information. If there is no backup for their claims, move on.

3. Watch out for recycled stories. One thing that seems to be feeding into the misinformation problem is when old stories are being presented as happening now. Check the date on the story before you read on. You’ll be shocked to see how many are from another time and aren’t applicable to the current event you thought they were talking about.

4. If you care about facts, ignore the blatantly slanted. Having a slant or taking a position on a story is not wrong in itself. What is wrong is when these ideas are taken as unbiased fact. You can avoid all of this by simply avoiding those sites to start with. Any website with the words: Conservative, Liberal, Democrat, Republican, etc. in the title are just advertising how slanted they are. That’s ok if you choose to live in your side’s bubble but please don’t have any delusions that these stories reflect the whole picture.

5. Google it. God (and Sergey) gave us Google for a reason. If you see a story that’s unbelievable or has no sources or even if it does, verify. See if the same facts are reported across multiple outlets. See if anyone disputes these facts. Read these pieces and then make up your mind.

If we could all take these simple steps our society would be a better place. We all have opinions and leanings. There is nothing wrong with that but could we at least all come from a starting point based on facts and reality?

The truth is, sharing illogical things begins to erode YOUR credibility and it makes you look foolish. Trust me, I speak from experience.

Now go share this, please.


  1. This segment on Full Frontal (Samantha Bee's show) has been bothering me ever since seeing it. Now that I the election is over and I keep seeing Facebook and fake news sources blamed - it bugs me even more. What they were doing is illegal - influencing another countries election process - no matter how - although it does remind me of propaganda campaigns that even America has taken part in in the past.....

  2. This is a really valid point. I've talked to quite a few people in the last few days who have said "I only read headlines". I am not saying I don't also do this as well. This morning over tea, I read everything that Wikipedia had published on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I made myself read every word of how each of them have chosen to spend their lives. There was a lot of information that was new to me. Most of all, it made it clear to me the vast difference in leadership skills and interests created from very different backgrounds and motivations. It also showcased consistent patterns of behaviors and beliefs, long-term commitment to helping others vs. self, superficiality vs. large scale impact. It is also very clear that media soundbites are powerful, and NOT enough. I will need to read those 2 articles many, many, many times to retain ALL of that information. But, reading it and having at least one reference other than the media to pull from, makes me feel that I better equipped to have an intelligent, non-combative conversation. Please share other sources for information other than media articles if available. For example, is anyone out there in College/Grad School with access to University articles that they can share?

    1. L,
      I updated a post on this blog titled "Is any media trustworthy" to include a chart that is a rough approximation of where the larger news sources fall on the left to right spectrum. I think this may interest you.

      Personally I'm still lost on what to trust for the most unfiltered slant. I've been a big fan of the Economist most of my life, but they are a monthly publication so the news is never breaking. I would like to make a list of news sources people trust to keep on this site and begin an ongoing critique of them to gain an understanding of how much we may be misunderstanding.

      Another reader on this blog has put a bug in my mind that we may be more ready than ever to shift our focus from trying to get honest politics to forming a news source that seeks true neutrality in reporting the facts. If a media source could establish itself as independent from pundits and financial backers, they could springboard that respect into becoming a platform for honest debates between the divided opinions in this country.

  3. The problem with #2 and #4 (sources, facts, vetting, standards of journalism,etc) is that most people are driven by EMOTIONS over facts. They hear what they want to hear. And any economist will tell you that any set of statistics can be used to argue two opposite viewpoints. I don't think the general public is interested in validating sources. It's like politics: we vote for people who share our values and expect them to vote for things so we don't have to. Same with media: I listen to NPR because they validate my worldview. I throw on some Sean Hannity when I need some entertainment to wake me up after listening to too much Terry Gross, but generally I believe what's reported on NPR. I think a lot of people believe that what's reported on NPR is a bunch of disconnected urban elite theory with no basis in reality.

    To answer the question: I hardly ever spread information to begin with, and maybe that's my problem.