Truth

2019-03-28I love the internet.

I hate the internet.

And… I remember the days before the internet. Do you? You know, when information was relatively difficult to find and we used to toddle off to the library to look things up.

Now, I’m not saying that those were better days, and buying a knitting pattern certainly took much longer, but there were benefits. First, information in books tended, whilst biased by the author’s opinions/agenda, not to be enormously swayed by the demands of advertisers. And, second, some degree of filtering happened before a book was published – acceptance by a publisher and subsequent editing, for example. I know that there was still plenty of misinformation, not to mention downright lies, but we were exposed to less of it because all information (true or false) was harder to access.

Now, we are bombarded by information and it can be overwhelming. How often do we look for something and get a million or more hits from our internet search, so only look at the first couple of suggested sites? How often do we see some figures on social media and think that they must be correct because they are quoted by a friend or a “trusted” source? Apart from anything else, what I consider to be a trustworthy source may not be the same as what you think is a trustworthy source.

However, the fact that we can access all this vast store of information is marvellous because, unlike in days gone by, we can follow up on it, we can check it, we can examine sources, we can find out more about the view of the author or publisher and, therefore, we have the opportunity to be more discerning than ever before. But often, we don’t… because it takes time, or because the information that we see supports our existing view of the world or makes us feel good. I know that I am much more likely to fact-check something that I disagree with or that makes me uncomfortable than something that confirms my existing opinion.

I am not someone who clicks the “share” button very often on my social media accounts and, you may have noticed, that here on the blog I try to research my information-sharing posts thoroughly and provide links to the sources. I generally don’t entirely believe the attention-grabbing headline statistics I see, but recently I find myself becoming more and more cynical and wondering what agenda is being served by the numbers and “facts” that appear before me. So, I’ve started looking a bit more closely – even at the numbers I like. I recently came across a useful fact checking charity called Full Fact, which seems to be impartial and I have used Snopes for many years. What I’d really like, though, is for people to check before they post. We are all responsible for “fake news” if we keep spreading it around.

So… are you a sharer or a cynic? Do you have a preferred fact-checking website? Do you reference the information that you put on your blog?

 

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