We’ve all heard it before, the wildly popular (and kind of hilarious) term, “fake news.” Our dear President Donald Trump initially bestowed this term upon media outlets that lean towards the more liberal side of the political spectrum. Some would say, he was offended by his critics (you read that correctly). Nevertheless, this term has divided the media just as Donald Trump has divided America. Trump supporters tend to call out liberal media outlets as fake news, while the rest of the population, at least in my opinion, have a little different definition of fake news: one that serves to actually distinguish between a credible source of news and what is flat out bullshit. I am not saying that liberal sources are always fair and honest, however, the problem is that people are only looking for news sources that serve the narrative they so badly want to believe as truth, no matter where their sources come from. This is a huge problem because, in doing so, we are perpetuating real fake news into the narrative.
So, how can we avoid fake news? Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a few tips:
1. First and foremost, only accept information from a source you are 100% sure is reputable.
That means, only look to sources that you are familiar with, you have heard it before, and you have been following for over five years (unless it’s a new outlet, but the bottom line is, don’t trust outlets that you can’t be sure is reputable). This goes back to what I was saying earlier – people will accept news as long as it supports their narrative, even if that outlet is not reputable and trustworthy, whatsoever.
2. Think critically.
Sometimes, I feel like I shouldn’t even have to say this. Nonetheless, we have seen a lack of critical thinking over the past few years. Even if you are looking at a source that is reputable, it is absolutely imperative to think critically about everything we digest as knowledge and truth. Ask yourself questions: what agenda is this pushing? Who does this benefit? Who does this harm? Why was this written, and by who? Where does the bias lie? How might someone interpret this differently? What is the argument, and what are the potential counter-arguments? Do the facts adequately support the argument? And so on.
3. Get your news from multiple reputable sources.
We cannot just look at one source and always see that as truth. While also thinking critically, we should look at multiple narratives and decipher what is being said about a certain topic and why it is being said the way it is. I even like to look at sources I disagree with because it is important to know all sides of an argument when forming an opinion. It is also important to know all sides of an argument because that can strengthen your position. I would also like to add that there are a ton of different news sources out there. From online journals, physical newspapers, to podcasts, all have an interesting way of interpreting the world around us.
4. Do not trust sources without an author credited.
So many people don’t even think about this, but it is crucial when distinguishing what is or is not a reputable source. Think about it – if the author is not willing to put his or her name beside what is written, then the content is likely to be complete bullshit and the author knows it, too.
5. Finally, do not trust advertisements.
The whole purpose of advertisements is to target a certain audience and push an agenda, so it is biased and many times malicious from the start. We cannot look to them as sources of credibility. Take the current Russia Facebook example. Facebook just released thousands of advertisements bought by Russian accounts that were used to manipulate Facebook users into voting for Donald Trump. If that does not scream “fake news” to you, then I’m not sure what will.
I’ve provided five very useful tips to distinguish what is and what is not fake news. There are probably more out there, but I found these five the most important in our current polarized political climate. Take what you want from this list, but just remember that in order to make change, we must be able to push social norms and see through real fake news that plagues mainstream media and influences masses in a very negative way.