Omg! Have You Seen This Article?!
Picture this: You have a slight headache after a long day at the beach yesterday and you are wondering if it should have gone away by now. You decide to Google it and find one article that says, "you may be dehydrated, in which case a headache is a perfectly normal response for 1-2 days." Clicking on another article, you read, "if you have a headache the following day that has not resolved, you should know that it was no doubt the chemicals in your sunscreen that is harming you and could give you cancer." Well... sunscreen has chemicals in it.. but I'm also probably dehydrated. I did use a lot of sunscreen though.. and now that I think about it, this headache has gone on longer than normal. Oh no. Maybe I'll Google it some more, or actually, I'll make a Facebook status and see what other people say.
Your friends are divided, so that brings me to whole reason why I am writing this blog: How on Earth can anyone make sense of what is true or not? Imagine being in a pandemic where you see contradictory information all over the place. Oh wait. We are. One VERY simple rule to remind yourself is that opinions are opinions, and facts are facts. With this being said, journalists and authors have become quite smart on how to frame their stories to reel in the reader/watcher. No doubt, it isn't always easy to know if what your reading is legitimate or not. BUT HAVE HOPE!!! Here are a few tricks you can teach yourself to help you decide if what you're reading is legitimate or not.
1). Consider the Source
Investigate the name of the journal, site or media outlook that you are using to see if this lends any credibility to the source. What about the author? Do they have a credible background? Any credentials, experience or background that imply they are likely trustworthy?
2). Read Beyond
Read more than just the headline. The headline or title of something is usually designed to lure in viewers, so make sure that you read MORE than just the first line. I cannot tell you how many articles will have zero context or substance in the story to support what the headline says. This is a tactic used to get popularity! Oftentimes, articles can contain a large amount of hyperlinks that give the article a false sense of credibility, when in actuality, these hyperlinks are fake or contain very little relevant information.
3). Check the Dates
This seems like a no-brainer. If you are reading an article from 10 years ago, how credible is it now? Also think about events that may have happened around the time when the article was written. There are countless stories and article written that are a direct reaction to something, so they have been reflecting some major emotional event or some sense of hysteria that was going around in the general public.
4). Is it a Joke?
Again, this one may seem like a no-brainer. There are some articles and websites that are completely false, sometimes to let off steam and may a joke out of something, other times to create a sense of mistrust and hysteria. If you read something that completely catches you off guard, then run through this checklist and see if this is a credible source. Also, you can check if there is any clickbait, or an overabundance of ads all around the article. Usually not a good sign.
5). Consult an Expert
When in doubt, find someone who has the experience and background to give you an answer. Look at your college professors, researchers, the professionals with credentials. Seek out someone who will give you an honest answer. Do not fall into the trap of seeking out someone who may confirm your pre-existing belief. What I mean is this: If you are wondering if eating beef could be harmful for you, do not go asking an animal rights activist or vegetarian because they could potentially be biased against whatever you have to say. Consider your own biases as well, otherwise you are essentially crippling yourself and falling into the temptation to believe the inaccurate.
The above five recommendations above are so, so, so important in this day and age. While in the middle of a politically charged pandemic, we are living in a social media world where anything can be posted, whether factual or fake. There are always going to be people for/against something, so it is not hard to find arguments from both sides. It is up to you as the reader to determine what is credible and scientifically sound vs what is false information inflated by emotion and ulterior motives.
I finish this blog by posting one very cool quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson:
"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."