My topic for this week is, “What does an average day look like for you in terms of reading and making sense of information, media, and the world around you? What are your personal strategies for analyzing and validating information (e.g. fake news or other information)?”
As someone who is just starting to adjust to a life on social media, I’m not yet at the point where I rely on it for my news… and after reading the articles my classmates have posted on social media and fake news, I think I’ll try to continue looking to more “old school” news sources even as I get accustomed to using social media for its other features and uses.
What does my average day look like in terms of how I get information and make sense of my world? Well, I’ll start by saying that I can’t make sense of my world. What I learn about in the news constantly tells me that there is so much going on that I can’t understand and have no way of even beginning to understand. I feel overwhelmed by the complexities of the moment we’re in, politically, socially, humanitarian-ly, and environmentally. There is just so much going on, and while some of it is good and inspiring, most of it is horrific and completely depressing. I also get very sick of seeing Trump’s ugly mug on my computer screen first thing in the morning. For these reasons, I try to keep in touch with the major events taking place, but I don’t allow myself to get too absorbed in any news forum. Basically, the time it takes for me to have my morning three cups of coffee is where the bulk of my news-viewing happens. What do I read during those three cups? Well, pour yourself a cuppa and let me tell you…
In terms of my news sources, I stick to news agencies I feel I can trust to not spread fake news. I spend my first cup of coffee of the day with CBC online. It’s my homepage. I try to scan all of their headlines, but my focus is usually on their top stories, local stories, health, and tech and science sections. I also keep up with what they’re posting in their Indigenous section.
For my second cup of coffee, I’ll turn over to The Guardian. This British publication gives me a different perspective on world news stories, with great international writers, and their online articles are way more in depth. I highly recommend reading (and supporting) the Guardian. They also have a great video and documentary section. For example, check out this scary interview with Christopher Wylie:
Then, if I get the time for a third cup of coffee, I’ll browse through the Tyee, a Vancouver-based independent news source that is, well, AWESOME. Take a look at this two minute vid to see why:
So there you have it. I never allow myself more than three cups of coffee in the morning, so hence I’ve now introduced you to the three main sources of news I take in each day. (Oh, I also listen to and support CBC radio 1, though I’m frustrated with them at the same time). Occasionally, I’ll look at an article in the New York Times that arrives at our house every Wednesday, or the New Yorker we get delivered on Tuesdays, or the Harper’s that comes ones a month, but to be honest, with working full time, being a mom, a swimmer, and a ceramist, I don’t get in as much “deep news” reading as I’d like to. And as I said above, I need to protect myself from “bad-news-overload,” which can happen very easily.
Speaking of bad news, I found it disturbing to read in our materials for this week that “a false story is much more likely to go viral than a real story,” and that
“[a] false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. And while false stories outperform the truth on every subject—including business, terrorism and war, science and technology, and entertainment—fake news about politics regularly does best.” (The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News).
The reasons given for this fact were that “fake news seems to be more ‘novel’ than real news” and “fake news evokes much more emotion than the average tweet.” The writer, Robinson Meyer, goes on to say that:
“The researchers created a database of the words that Twitter users used to reply to the 126,000 contested tweets, then analyzed it with a state-of-the-art sentiment-analysis tool. Fake tweets tended to elicit words associated with surprise and disgust, while accurate tweets summoned words associated with sadness and trust, they found.”
I guess that what this information tells me is that people would prefer to spend time thinking about and posting things that are surprising and/or disgusting rather than thinking about and posting things that are sad and/or true. And that we have “less emotion” about real world events than about made up, fake ones.
This in itself makes me, well, sad.
I know I’m guilty of not wanting to get too absorbed by all the sad news out there, and thus not knowing as much about today’s world as I should, but I think I can say that I don’t allow myself to get distracted from the real state of things by looking at surprising or disgusting news items instead of the sad truth of the world’s affairs. It seems like there’s this tendency out there to get all wrapped up over some disgusting, surprising, and maybe even “atrocious” yet ultimately NOT hugely important issue, and then leave less time for considering the major events taking place in the world today. Let me know if you think I’ve got it wrong.
I think it’s sad that some people create and others spend their time on often trivial fake news stories, when the real “surprising and disgusting” stories are the ones that are true:
… how could anyone need to, or even try to, make up news that is more emotion-evoking, and even more disgusting than the recent shooting? More disgusting than the the refugee crisis? Than climate change, or the slow but steady “sixth mass extinction” we’re causing?
I guess, though, that the situation I’m talking about is nothing new. I smiled when I saw the quotation from Johnathan Swift in Carter Davis’ vlog: “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”
True. But still, this is why I shy away from using social media to get my news. I know I could be tempted to fly with the falsehoods, too. However, not using social media as a news source doesn’t mean I feel I’m impervious to fake news… if I’ve learned anything in the recent weeks in this class, it’s that we can all be manipulated much more easily than we may realize. I feel I’m much more media-savvy now than I was before taking this class. If nothing else, I’m more cautious about everything I do online. I’ve learned from my classmates and from Alec (my prof) that there are tools out there that can remind us how to be critical of sources of information. For example, my classmate Regan Williams posted a great vlog in which she points us in the direction of EAVI Media Literacy and their tools for teaching/learning about this media literacy, and the info-graphic posted in Jaimie and Jocelyn‘s vlog with similar points to consider.
Once again, if you feel I have anything wrong in this post, please let me know. I certainly don’t want to be posting any more misinformation than what’s already out there. 😉