The following is a sponsored article provided by MyTherapist.com
Fake news is a term that has been thrown around a lot more frequently in recent years. As the definition of media and news sources changes so rapidly with the advent of social media, so does the presentation of news and facts.
With social media, everybody is allowed to share their own bits of news and their opinions regarding it. Due to this, news items and especially editorialized reshares of those items can be riddled with biases and misinformation, and fear-mongering has become the trouble of the day.
The intake of news is an essential part of life. However, the onslaught of news can overwhelm us and severely affect how we think about the world. It’s not uncommon for a person’s mental health to also be affected by the constant feed of information. Click here for more resources about mental health.
So how can you separate facts from myths and truth from lies? Here are some steps you can take to try to identify and avoid fake news.
Develop Critical Thinking Skills
Fake news can refer to different kinds of news: one that is false or factually incorrect, and the other that is only partially true but is presented to be entirely correct. While consuming any piece of news, make it a conscious habit to view it from the perspective of this definition.
Is the piece believable? Does it have an obvious shock value? Does is it appear extremely biased, like it is spreading misinformation against someone or something?
Even if you don’t immediately know that the news piece is fake, if you have this critical mindset and ask yourself these questions, at the very least, you will be more likely to take it with a grain of salt.
Verify Your Sources’ Credibility
No news organization in today’s world is necessarily free of bias. Like all humans, reporters have their own biases and inclinations towards different political and economic ideologies, and they can only try their best to be objective.
If there is one newspaper you read frequently or one news channel you tune into every night, consider doing a background check to understand their leanings.
If you come across a news piece on social media, do a quick Google search to see who else is reporting the story and what else they are saying about before you pass on that information to anybody else. Even if you know your source has been solid in the past, checking new news stories against other sources increases the likelihood that you will get the full picture.
Diversify Your Sources
Even if you know your political inclinations and know that the source you are following is a verified, believable source of news, remember to keep yourself open to getting more information about the same reports from other sources as well.
Having different perspectives of the same news can help you make an informed judgment about the event. It can be tempting to box yourself by only following people and sources that agree with your own inclinations, but this can create an echo chamber and wall you in from getting more information.
Examine The Evidence and Citations
Apart from the source’s credibility, critically examine the news piece itself. Focus on the claims of the report, and what evidence the source provides for these claims.
Also, take a look at your source’s sources. Is the data provided from the government or a reputed organization? Are there any quotes from important people? Are the images attached from this event, or from a past happening? Are they digitally altered?
You can do a quick reverse search of the sources and images to ensure they are not manipulated.
Do Not Believe Social Media Forwards
Social media has become the tool of choice for those who are keen on spreading misinformation. Facebook updates and WhatsApp forwards can be full of hoax information that should not be trusted without diligent verification.
Even if the message is coming from someone you personally know and trust, do not accept the news at face value; do a background check. Remember, social media can be an unreliable source of information, no matter how abundant it is. Think of quality over quantity.
Follow Fact-checking Organizations
Many online organizations have made it their mission to relay the truth by dismantling fake news. FactCheck.org, IFCN, and PolitiFact.com are examples of such media-literacy websites. If any fake news story goes viral, these sites verify the sources and evidence to establish the truth.
Pay Attention To Quality
Another marker that you can use to distinguish fact from fiction is the quality of the written article or video. Like most other things, a fake version of something is usually of a downgraded quality, and the same applies to the news. Although there are many groups that propagate fake news through top-notch articles, there are many others who do not, especially if you receive the news through social media.
Follow this list of steps for every news report you come across so that you do not become complicit in spreading more fake news. Ensure you are following sources that deliver high-quality bulletins, and do not believe everything you come across.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with MyTherapist.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.