DEVELOP CRITICAL THINKING

 
 

The best defense against being manipulated online is to think critically about what you are seeing and reading. That isn’t to say that there is nothing light-hearted left in the world, but just like venturing out in real life, you should always be aware of your surroundings. These questions will help you differentiate between mud-slinging, advertising, and actual content.

Are you aware of your own bias? If the content is something you agree with, are there facts to support your view, or are you sharing because you already believe it?

Think about who benefits from the claims being made: George Orwell once said, “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.” Without creditable proof and sources, sweeping statements of flattery may not be the whole truth. 

Does the information presented seem too good to be true? Truth is in the details, and if the details seem vague and fuzzy, it is probably a good sign that the information is being misrepresented as truth.

Are you thinking and reading with an open mind? Do you find find yourself unwilling to believe in (or, disbelieve in) something because it would mean admitting you were previously wrong? There is nothing wrong with changing your mind after being given new information– it shows growth and wisdom. It was Abraham Lincoln who once said, “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” 

Conversely, are you too eager to believe? Keep a healthy level of skepticism when presented with new information. Be(ing) skeptical doesn't have to mean you are cynical. It just means you aren't ready to jump on a bandwagon (that isn’t supported by facts). Look at multiple sources, and think about the information being presented and come to your own conclusion.

Does the article use buzzwords? Don't let emotionally charged vocabulary hold you hostage. (See above in Terms to Know)

 
An eagerness to accept a viral claim can ignite memes and rumors that make their way into partisan news sources and are accepted as fact by particular audiences. Pre-existing perspectives and beliefs can lead people to bend and exaggerate the meaning of images and raw video — or to harbor sharply divergent perspectives on news coverage.
— The News Literacy Project, Peter Adams