Mark Zuckerburg’s recent testimonies to House and Senate committees were grueling. It was hard to watch this crude soup of corporate omission, generational clashing and partisan politics play out on internet television via Twitter. Embattled with accusations of corporate data irresponsibility, Zuckerberg tried his best to ensure Congress that Facebook would make the changes necessary to combat alleged unethical profiling by former data partner, Cambridge Analytica, on behalf of the Trump campaign. As much as Zuckerberg would like to take responsibility for this alleged misuse of information, he can’t. Sure, Facebook could most certainly tighten its data sharing protocol, but this misinformation attack was successful mostly at the fault of its users and their general lack of scrutiny on the information they receive via their newsfeeds, timelines and messages.
Information is food for your brain and deserves to be treated as such. Foodies guard their precious stomachs with verified information from restaurant rating sources like Yelp, and you should do the same with your information. Paying mind to where you get your news will keep you safe from misinformation and encourage self-awareness during your downtime. Here’s how to be a more responsible social news consumer.
Consume to know, not to agree
While digital media has helped democratize information, it’s also mutated the information consumption experience. We used to consume information to know, but now in many ways, we do it to agree. Consuming information in its nature should be an objective experience. Let go of agreement as a requirement for accepting information. Disagreement, misalignment and conflict are what encourage mindful debate on a path to solution. Consuming information to agree nicely carves up your willingness to be influenced and serves it up on a platter to media manipulators.
Take a second look
As the wise rap poet Andre Benjamin once said, “Reconsider. Read some literature on the subject.” When you come across information, always take a second look. Consider the publisher, their intent and their brand. In today’s media climate, objectivity is a rare tenant digital publishers possess, but big names tend to have easily-identifiable and subjective angles. Meeting this subjectivity with awareness and intent to validate will allow you to filter through the angles, get to the key takeaways and form your own opinion.
FACT CHECK 3x
Fact checking takes a few seconds. The Annenberg Public Policy Center has dedicated a whole organization and digital publishing outlet to combating political misinformation. Other popular sites like Snopes address the social question, debunking inaccurate viral posts from across social platforms. If you come across information that gives you pause for inaccuracies or misrepresentations, then fact check! Read from other sources, and give yourself a full view of the information you’re consuming. You’ll be wiser for it and armed to engage in fulfilling conversation on the matter.
Use your clicks wisely
Uncle Sam, your friends, and family want you to be a more responsible information consumer because it protects them from misinformation, creates a more trustworthy social environment and encourages civility. When you verify information before accepting it as fact or sharing to your network, you are literally fighting against information. Think about your clicks as time that you can’t get back. If a headline looks offensive or inaccurate to you, then don’t click or share! Those five minutes you spend reading something you know is not true or misrepresented, frustrating yourself, could be spent elsewhere on productivity, rest or self care. Protect your peace.