Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to not be suckered by internet fear mongering

I love the internet. I practically live here, and I'd like to think that everyone is jive and helpful and trying to add to the whole of human goodness.

That ain't the way, tho.

Because the internet is also how the majority of people get their information, and because the average person was never taught how to to think critically, the internet is also a big old fear machine. And people gobble up this fear and repeat it. But you font have to.

So whenever you home across some article that strikes fear into your heart, especially if the message of said article boils down to everything you love will make you die or this person you already don't like is about to take away this thing you love, step back, and think about it.

1. Fact check the crap out of that shit
Go to your fav search engine, and type in "what is the truth about____?", and then, and this is critical, look at all the answers. Not just the ones that agree, but all of them. Some things to keep in mind:
- the first two out three pages should be actual news sources
- are the dates on the articles current?*
- who has a vested interest in keeping you scared, and are the scary articles only coming from them?

Because here's the thing: the news is wildly biased, and there are always leaders who want you scared--so you won't ask questions, so you will vote one way and not another, so you won't ask for change because you won't know it's needed.

Ask who is trying who to get you to do what, and if the who is a very powerful political entity, our a very large corporation known to be shifty, or a community leader who doesn't like people to ask questions about what he's doing, maybe think again before freaking out.

Be especially wary of people who ask you to be angry without also giving you an actual action other than being argumentative, because anger is inherently irrational. Who wants you irrational? Why?

2. Consider your sources
Not all news is equal. Look at where your info is coming from:
- is it first hand from people who are actually educated to talk about these things, or is it second, third, fourth hand word of mouth?
- if it's from an actual news source, do they link to actual educated people, or to actual scientific studies, or to places that have standards of review?
- is it verified by someone other than affiliates of the original fear mongering?
- is the news from a source paid for by the people who would lose money when you bother to know the truth?

Any hint of dishonesty in any of those things should cause you to pause.

3. Remember what you learn and apply it next time
There is literally no point in doing any of this if you're going to just jump right up and freak out about the next thing without verifying the information first.

Thinking takes effort, and there will always be someone who wants you lazy and controllable. And that's usually the person upholding the thing that's bad for you. What's the point of these big human brains if we aren't using them?

* We recently got a call from a family member freaking out about something that was misreported, discredited, and corrected two years ago. It could have saved them a lot of fear just by literally five minutes of fact checking.

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