Our society now lives and breathes technology. The way we gather news and information has drastically changed over the last 20 years. Everything is instant, and the media has become a lifeline for our culture. We are always connected, whether it be through social media, newspapers, television or radio…which can have its ups and downs. In the palm of our hands, we now have access to countless resources to help us simplify our lives and make decision-making easier. If you’re hungry, use your phone to quickly lookup restaurants near you with the best reviews and order online. Without even leaving your seat you can now have food delivered to you at home or at work. However, most of us underestimate the degree to which the continual bombardment of information through media sources influences our perspective.
Objective versus subjective news – What’s the Difference?
There is a reason why advertising is now more than a trillion-dollar industry. Guaranteed, every website you look at, every Google Search you make and social media platform you are on, you are constantly exposed to advertisements. In many cases, you’re exposed to advertisements you may not even realize are advertisements or media tactics that are targeted to influence your decisions. For example, most famously in recent news was the Cambridge Analytica scandal that was said to influence voters’ decisions during the 2016 Presidential elections. Through the bombardment of subliminal messages and advertising (both true and false), Americans became the target of their own weapon – their data. Through social media algorithms, your information is gathered and used to help direct relatable content to you. We need to be wary of the content we are seeing and reading. If you are reading a news article for example, is it an opinion piece or sponsored by a third party? Sponsored posts can influence the writer’s choice of words to sway your judgement — That’s the advertising in it. The news you receive should be objective, meaning it shouldn’t have a point of view on a subject. It should simply share the information that’s available and allow you to develop an opinion of your own.
Know your sources – Where did it come from?
More than ever before, it’s crucial to understand where you are getting your news from. Although our access to information is extremely efficient with how instant it is, it’s also the reason why misinformation spreads like a virus. If we aren’t careful with the news we choose to share and believe in, we are only adding fuel to the fire. As an example, in 2019, Betty White was announced dead – which ended up being a hoax started by EmpireNews.net – a platform notorious for posting fake stories. It ended up trending on Twitter and other social media platforms only to anger users about being fooled. Before you allow a story or piece of information to shape your judgement, be sure that the information you have is from a reliable source. Even if it’s from a notably trustworthy news source, it’s best to practise looking up a couple of other news platforms to see if the facts are consistent before hitting that share button.
Challenge certain ideas and norms – It’s ok to shake things up a bit
We need to have a filtering mechanism that allows us to see things through a different lens than the one the media wants us to see things through. Don’t just take information at face value. It’s easy to read something and believe it’s real, but it’s better to do your research and gather more information before jumping to a conclusion right away. Choosing to absorb information from a variety of different sources helps to diversify the perspectives and minimize single-lens perspectives too. There is no such thing as having too much information. The more knowledge you have on a given topic, the more perspectives you can create – allowing you to develop an opinion that’s based on well-evaluated reasoning.
As a rule of thumb for fact-checkers everywhere, everything is wrong until it is proven right. As strongly as the interactions we have with people shape our perspectives so does our interaction with mass media. It moves quickly, and some can argue that the media (more specifically the internet and social apps) moves too quickly for us to fully understand at times. That’s why it’s vital to understand the social media apps you use on a day-to-day basis and how the information you share with these platforms affects the content you see when you scroll through your newsfeed. Check, double-check, and triple-check your resources before you jump to a conclusion or share a news link with your friends on Facebook. And maybe next time before you choose a restaurant based on a Yelp review, explore your community, find a new restaurant you haven’t tried and direct your taste buds to your own opinion.
“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind” ― Jim Morrison