"Of course it's true, I saw it on the internet!"

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By Kari Tontarski

“I do this already. I am a good person online and offline.” I’m sure you are, but you’re not perfect. So, before you lay in bed at night wondering if you should have re-worded that tweet, shared that article on vaccines causing antidisestablishmentarianism, or shared details from an Onion article as fact in front of that judgmental coffee pot, let’s have a chat about what you can do now to save yourself later headaches.

We are in the Day and Age of Media!

It’s everywhere. Literally. You can’t look around you without seeing a screen, a logo, or slogan. You can’t listen to anything without an advertisement or a reference to something else. So that leaves the question, how much of what you’re seeing is accurate? Will that furnace & A/C company really bring you peace of mind? Is that brand name the best suited product to your need? Does arrogance bring in a better paycheck? My guess is that you have answers already in your head to these questions, but what if you read, saw, or felt something that made you question the answers you thought you had?

Welcome to media! A literal untapped source of “information”! Yes, that is quoted on purpose. Why? Because the “information” you’re looking at may just be what is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things, verses facts. In the world of “fake news”, “fake facts”, and click-bait; you’ve got to be careful with what you’re believing. So, we’re going to go over the top 5 things to consider.

Does it Feel Right?

This golden rule applies to a lot of facets of your life. It always will. These things, the matters of the heart, are ones that I want to separate from information. Feelings are not facts. Sorry. Not really sorry. How you feel, may be all too real for you, but it is very likely nonexistent to the stranger next to you. Is what you’re reading pulling at your heart strings? Time to see if there are any facts.

Facts

Details. Figures. Statistics. Hard numbers. Hard science. Subjects that have been repeated, successfully, with the same results, over, and over, and over, and well, over again. If what you’re reading cannot be brought up in a simple Google search, there is a good chance it’s a pile of <insert offensive noun> (sorry, can’t swear here). Not really something you want to say, smear around your social circles; online or offline.

A Critical Eye

Ask the Five W’s. Who. What. Where. Why. When. And an H. How. Never forget the H. How, is the best question. It’s before Why. You can’t always answer Why, but you can almost always find How.

How…

  • Did the “information” come to you?

  • Did it impact your day?

  • Did it impact others?

Why…

  • Was this “information” posted?

  • Just, why?

  • Pretend you’re five, just keep asking why.

Who…

  • Did it impact?

  • Did it benefit?

  • Wrote it?

  • Published it?

  • Backed it?

What…

  • Did it accomplish?

  • Did it damage?

  • Did it make you feel?

  • Did it make you think?

Where…

  • Was the “information” posted?

  • Is the “information” checked?

When…

  • Did the “information” occur?

  • Was the “information” released?

  • Were you able to verify the “information”?

If you can’t answer all of these, not a big deal. If you can’t answer any of them, that may be a problem. The last question to asks is whether or not the answers have merit.

Context

Depending on how, where, and who is presenting “information”, there is opportunity for it to be manipulated. Don’t believe me? Any popular story from mythology has been told over and over. Does that make the myth anything more than what it is? A Myth? You may feel it does, you may believe it does because it’s been told over, and over, and over again. But that doesn’t make it true. This is how context is born.

Say you see an article about a “mysterious and recently discovered species that has THREE HEADS and can….”, only to click on it to find out it’s a crochet pattern, you’d be mighty disappointed. Now, say the same article has what looks like “information”. Facts. “Dr. Boop PhD in Metaphysical Cellulous Metamorphosis” found a strange “reptile” that is actually warm blooded, can speak Japanese, and only eats carrots. I say at least that Dr better come up in a Google search. Found it all? From what sites? Facebook? The Onion? BuzzFeed? Unless you see something science-related or reputable to those articles, they are less than reputable references.

Comprehension

You’re not dumb if you can’t understand something. Sometimes it’s the topic (your level of interest in the topic), the writer, or even the teacher. If you can’t comprehend what you’re reading, you can try to interpret it. If you do, I suggest you back up your interpretation with facts. It’s not a hit to your ego to not comprehend. You’re not lacking something. You’re not even really missing anything. Don’t get stuck in the information age by assuming all information is meant for you. It’s meant to be there for you, when you want to learn something you’re interested in.

Moving on…

The “Information” Finale

This article is just like the rest of the “information” on the Word Wide Web. Take it, learn from it, verify it, fight it, share it. At the end of the day, we’re all kind of just making it up as we go along. Just try not to be the person who ruins it for everyone else with a bunch of misinformation