Digital hygiene is important, and no I’m not talking about keeping your mailbox clean or avoiding pornography, I’m talking about facts. Facts are a tricky thing to navigate in the digital age, but I believe that if you have any kind of platform, even just a Facebook page with a few friends, you have the responsibility to check that the information you’re sharing is true. This can be tricky in such a politicised world where every author has an agenda but facts by their nature are verifiable.
Recent events have shown us the real danger of conspiracy theories in the digital age, with people’s mothers and aunts and grandfathers being taken in by theories to such an extent that they’d try to storm the Capitol. But how do you verify information? Who can you trust?
1. Harness the Power of Critical Thinking
If you’re reading something with a clear mind, you’ll be able to tell the difference between an opinion piece and a news article, but even so, you can look at a few clear identifying factors to see if what you’re reading holds merit.
Firstly, have you read the same report from multiple trusted sources. Does the URL sound legitimate? If it comes from a site with a dodgy name or seemingly random content, it’s probably not a legitimate source. If something sounds out of place or sensationalist, stop there and start seeing if you can cross-reference this information.
2. Consult Independent Fact-Checkers
Independent fact checkers are the saving grace of our time. Websites such as Snopes are quick to vet new information circling online from wellness trends to celebrity gossip to political affairs, Snopes provides fast, clear answers as well as uncovering the source of information. These fact-checkers showed their usefulness during the COVID-19 pandemic, where new rumours were circulating every day.
3. If You See False Information, Flag It
If you see a Facebook friend or Instagram follower sharing false information, flag it as such. By stopping the spread of fake news you’re helping others keep their feeds clean of misinformation as well. To be clear once again, this isn’t about censorship or blocking people’s freedom of speech, this is about stopping the spread of false statistics and statements that can be either ‘true’ or ‘false’.
4. Think Before You Share
Just because you agree with the opinions of a writer or website doesn’t mean their story is true. If a writer or blog is sharing false information, it is important that these sources don’t gain credibility via a number of people reading and sharing them. Take for instance the idea that everyone swallows spiders in their sleep. This ‘fact’ is still shared by children and adults alike even though the original hoax was spread almost twenty years ago.
In conclusion, if you’re active online go visit Grand Rush rather than reading fake news! You need to be upholding standards that protect everyone from false information. The world is full of deceit and half-truths, and if you would watch a movie before letting your kids see it, you should double check information before letting your friends and family online read it.