Fact, fiction or something else?

Social media is full of fact, fiction or something else. We post things all of the time, sometimes without second thought. Do you ever post something that you later find out is not quite what you thought it was?

This morning I was scrolling through news apps and then my Twitter feed when I came upon a headline that I hadn’t seen in my news scroll. It ignited my anxiety in a fierce way, I felt fear and a little panic, and a lot of confusion. And you know what I did about it? I shared it. I clicked that share button despite all of my research and understanding of ‘read before your share’ and what click-bait looks like.

I don’t want to do this again, at the very least I want to make sure I do it very rarely, so I decided to go through and review some media literacy skills. In the fight against fake news, we need to keep our skills fresh. 

Here are some of the media literacy skill muscles that help fight the urge to click the share button when deciphering between fact, fiction or something else.

1. When we read something that triggers our anxiety, STOPThere’s something exhilarating about being the first to share important new information, but it’s ok to take a second and verify if this is solid and true. We can even take it a step further and identify the emotion that triggered the anxiety in the first place.

2. The point of headlines is to get you to click through and read, or to share without a second thought. Does the headline feel like it gave you all the information you need to know? When we feel like the headline is all we need to know, then for sure we need to click and read the article or even just scroll past it. Advertisers pay per click, or per click-through. If you want to reward that advertiser, interact with the post and then the social platform will show that post to even more people.

3. Understand the algorithm a little better. Social media is built to keep you on their platform. Until recently they didn’t care what was keeping you there and we’ve seen a proliferation of fake news and bots being rewarded by the algorithm. In our last blog post we talked about how the algorithms set us up in a bubble and how to break out of it. Teach the algorithm that you only click on trusted news sources and it will show you more of them (our favorites are AP and Reuters).

4. Prioritize productivity in your clicks and shares. It’s great to be a source of solid information for the people you interact with. But it’s even better to show people how to act on this information and how to actually help get things done. For example, when it’s time to vote, don’t just share information about candidates and issues, help people know HOW to vote.

In the end I went back and deleted my post, having realized I shared as an emotional response. I like being correct, so this was a hard thing to face head-on and admit that I was wrong. It’s always good to have a reminder to check my shares to see if they are fact, fiction or something else. I hope these insights into the marketing side of social media and suggestions to fight fake news in your feed are useful to you. Media literacy in the digital world is more vital than ever. And if you’d like to learn even MORE about how to stay on top of the real news, check out our recent webinar on Media Literacy!