A new phenomenon is taking the internet by storm, but in the worst of ways. Many of us have fallen victim to “Fake News.” And further perpetuate the issue by sharing this misinformation and regurgitating it as fact.
The news was once a trusted facet where we could inform ourselves of current events. But times have changed. With endless resources at our disposal, we are constantly confronted with news stories and studies that lack fact-checking and credibility. While these news sources are certainly in the wrong, we as readers are contributing to the issue and making it worse.
Perhaps it’s because these fake news stories appeal to our personal ideals, so we accept them as fact. Or maybe, it’s because we want to be the first one to share this information with our peers, appearing as if we are always in the know.
Our fear of missing out could be the culprit to our attraction to fake news.
The Fear of Missing Out (also known as FOMO) is the common condition with a pretty self-explanatory concept. We all want to be caught up on the latest news. It is part of the human condition to want to be informed. Therefore, when we see breaking news on the internet, we are inclined to share the stories to educate our peers.
The huge issue with this is that many people don’t make it past the headline. Without even reading the articles, we share them on multiple social media outlets such as Facebook or Instagram, not even realizing what we are actually sharing.
In our effort to feel superior and informative, we are actually showing our peers how ignorant and gullible we are.
When we passively take in information, we blindly fall victim to bias.
Do you have a favorite go-to news source? Are you sure that it’s credible? Sometimes when we find a news outlet that appeals to our concerns and ideals, we passively take in the information, and don’t even think to challenge the “facts.”
For example, individuals who consider themselves to be extremely right winged politically tend to gravitate towards Fox News and bash any news sources that dare contradict any of their news stories. They have developed a bias, and will reject any information that doesn’t follow their agenda.
Many of us do this without realizing it, and are negatively influenced by authoritative sources. There are three types of bias to look out for:
- My-Side Bias- the kind of bias that gets formed when you’re in a collaborative group with strong ideals. You will gravitate towards information that confirms your group’s objective.
- Authoritative Bias- a logical reasoning fallacy where you will refer to an authoritative source to either confirm or deny information. (Ex. Fox News. If they do not agree with the information, then it must not be true.)
- Confirmation Bias- blinds people from being objective to facts. We don’t want to believe that we are wrong, so we will dismiss information that contradicts our beliefs. We will limit our intake of new information that does not resonate with our pre-existing beliefs.
To stop taking in false information, start with removing unreliable sources.
Evaluate the source of information.
How credible is this source really? Why do you take their word for fact, and is there perhaps some bias involved? Think about why you started to follow this individual or news source to begin with, and if it is still relevant to your current interests.
For example, maybe you started to follow a public figure because he was a really funny guy who shared a lot of jokes and funny videos. At the beginning he only shared about some nonsense jokes or funny things he did every day. But later, he started to joke about issues related to different races or sexual orientation. Be smart enough to know whether the information is valid or whether the public figure’s stance on something align to what you truly believe. Don’t just blindly follow what he believes without processing the information.
Try to disconnect from Facebook.
Much easier said than done, as this is a deep-seeded urge that we all have. FOMO typically stems from unhappiness, and a need for attention. How do we dispel these urges?
Disconnecting is one option. I know, I know. You just CAN’T LIVE without constantly checking into social media. But here’s the thing. You existed and survived without it before, you can do it again. Don’t go cold turkey, but just try to do it less. You have no idea how free and peaceful your mind will become when you stop overwhelm your brain with unnecessary information.
Search for different perspectives, always.
Don’t rely on one source for all of your information. Look for opposing viewpoints on the subject that you’re looking into the get an even keel of the situation. You may realize something that you hadn’t noticed before and change your position on the matter.
Identify your stance on the subject, and look for contradictory evidence to disprove that fact. That might seem silly, but it is the only way to truly know if your opinion is concrete.
If in a group of people, ask each individual their opinion separately, as to not let them be influenced by the position of others.
Use the rule of three. Identify three possible hypothesis for the subject to look at it from every angle. Three is the magic number because there is enough variation to get a solid overview of the subject, but not so much information that it gets confusing and the point is lost.
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io
|TIME: This Is The Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out
|Psychology Today: What Is Confirmation Bias?
|Journal of Accountancy: 5 ways to overcome confirmation bias
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