The world is now experiencing what I call “Naivety in the ‘Information Age'”. Our computers have memory capacities measured in the tens of billions or trillions of bits of information. Storage capacities are even larger and CPU speeds are unimaginable! With the right software, we can access all of that information in a matter of seconds. Despite the speed and ease with which we can access information, we still have an astonishing number people victimized by false-information.
With the availability of information increasing at exponential rates, our ability to digest it lessens as quickly. How often do you receive an email asking for money from our “uncle stuck in England”? What about emails stating that “<Politician X> said this, and you should boycott him forever because of it”? How do we make sense of it all?
For many, we see these emails as the junk that they are. Unfortunately, many others get caught up in the “drama”. We all want some excitement in our lives. These e-mails are written to appeal to our need for adventure or our need to know something our neighbor doesn’t. Unfortunately, getting caught up in the excitement costs some people their livelihoods.
What do we do?
Before we give the uneducated or uninitiated unfettered access to the Internet, why don’t we offer a little training or support? Why don’t we teach them how to verify or check the information they see before they act on it? Much of this information is easily verifiable (or dismised) with a few easy clicks or searches on the Internet. If we can’t verify it, why would we pass it on? If we had a rumor passed to us about a friend (or even just an acquaintance) would we pass it on without first verifying it? Why then would we do anything differently about any of the above important information? It goes back to human nature, I guess.
Suggestions to protect yourself:
I’d like to offer a few suggestions that I adhere to especially for the really important topics. (I don’t like to look like an idiot when I’m discussing current events, politics, sports, etc so when something comes up, I always try to learn more about the topic before forming an opinion)
Evaluate your source.
Is your source biased towards this topic? Is your source objective? Did your source actually develop, create, have a part in creating the issue? If so, find an independent observer
What are the facts?
Are you being given all of the facts? Whats the whole story? Is there more to the story? Are you hearing an objective review regarding the facts or a subjective review based on opinion? Was this hearsay or first person?
What is the other side of the story?
Are you hearing both sides of the story or a one-sided view of the issue? I always try to find as many sources as I can with several on both sides of the issue. If you can only find opinions on one side of the issue, that’s usually telling as well.
Is this even true?
Is this even a valid issue? Often, you’ll find it is a hoax. Misinformation aimed at making you angry and ready to fight. Do a little digging to check first. If it’s a hoax, then stop it NOW! Don’t let it continue! You could be hurting someone’s reputation by letting it continue or propagating it any further! (hint: check http://www.snopes.com)
How recent is your information?
What was true yesterday might not be true today! Again, check it out!
RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH. With the advent of Google, Bing, etc. it shouldn’t take too long to get some of this information and help forming a reasonable idea about the veracity of the information that you are receiving!