I think it would be an understatement to say there is a lot of information from the news out there, at our fingertips through the newspaper, magazines and the internet, in our ears from the radio and as we sit to relax in front of the television
Recently a friend of mine told me a story of how her sister was scanning through Facebook and came across an article that causes stress and anxiety for her sister, based on its content and coincidental applicability to events taking place in her life. In an effort to calm her sister she checked out the article discovering that it was not a recent publication and is what is referred to as “click-bait”, where an article provides a shocking title or introduction to lure people to read it and click on a link to another page, which in this case was to sell a product she didn’t need. This particular situation can be related to so many people facing a daily bombardment of information and requires us as consumers of information to ask the right questions.
If there is so much out there that is not reliable, why is news still important?
It is still important to know the facts about what is going on around us to help us make better decisions. This could include the simplest news like the weather person telling us its going to rain, so you make decisions to pack an umbrella, to changes in the stock of a corporation you are currently investing in. Also keep in mind that positive stories are still out there. It can brighten one’s day to read a story of a student who volunteers her time after school to set up activities in her local elder’s residence or community coming together to help out a family
How do we decipher the information coming in and why it is important to look into where news comes from?
When looking at a source of information there are a few best practices in determining the reliability of the information. Some of these can take some time and research, but if someone is really determined to measure the reliability of a source there are a few steps that can be taken. These can be quick checks such as verifying the date of the publication of the article is current, checking who the author is and doing a search of the author to determine if they have credentials in the field they are discussing and verifying the publication source. Further research could be in identifying the company or organization that is publishing this article, are they a known source, are they a source in the related field of the article topic? Finally, another level of research could include determining the organization’s place in the industry and what their best interests would be. For example, if you came across an article stating “Brand X” dog food is known to cause digestive illness in dogs and it is published by a communications division of “Brand Y” dog food, you might question what the motivation would be for this article. Is it to warn people, or have “Brand X” purchasers move over to “Brand Y”, increasing sales?
What responsibility does the reader have in distinguishing fact from fiction?
As the reader we need to watch what is real and what is not to ensure we are looking at information that is correct and to know our limitations in how much to take in, by understanding the cues from our emotions. If something induces a very negative emotion, it may be time to step away from that article, at least for the time being. Which leads us to…
When and why it is time to shut the news off?
As mentioned above, negative emotion can be your internal alarm to let you know when some news might just be enough and it may be important to interrupt the messaging being taken in at that time, to move onto something more productive and positive.
In these days of 24/7 information, give yourself permission to set boundaries around what is good for you and what is not good for you. You and your mental health are important!