Remember when April Fools’ Day was just one day a year? And how no more than 24 hours following delivery of the lie/joke, the instigator would chime in to end the gullible suffering of the poor recipient? It seems weird to reminisce about such an obvious ethical line in the sand, but it’s the dawn of a new age: the age of fake news.
News stories that we once regarded as candidly satirical are now real enough to broadcast nationally, or at the very least, tweet globally. And, on the flip side, some of the world’s most scientifically verified ideas—what most of us would deem facts—are now being called into question.
Needless to say, it’s hard to tell what “truth” is these days, and because of that, we find ourselves in extremely disorienting times. But that doesn’t mean the truth doesn’t exist (depending on your philosophical leanings, we guess). The question, though, is how we as consumers should discern the truth in these increasingly murky waters? Luckily, we have a few tips.
Check Your Facts
If ever there was a golden rule for finding credible news sources in the modern era, it would be, “Do your research.” Granted, you could just read articles that cite the same “facts” over and over again—therefore never really giving you anything substantive—but realistically, you’re also going to unearth some alternate opinions that can help clarify the original POV you were researching. Fortunately, there are a handful of sites dedicated to solving the exact problem this post addresses and doing some of the fact-checking for you. (You’re welcome.)
You’re probably familiar with Snopes, the Internet’s de facto mythbuster for a while now. However, with alternative facts becoming such a big part of today’s world, Snopes has also begun sorting more pertinent topics than just local urban legends.
Along with Snopes, you can also reference sites such as Politifact, Fact Check, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, and a few others you can find here. That said, one could assume that a logical next step in the ongoing war on the “fake news” phenomenon is fake fact-checking sites that offer validating facts for news sources that are anything but credible. So remember to always check for additional sources in the event that you run into a “legitimate” fact site with a suspicious Russian-sounding undertone.
Check Your Bias
This is a tough one, as it’s one of the main reasons that any of this is happening in the first place. We all have our opinions and see plenty of “news” that we want to believe at first glance. But for us to collectively combat the rise of fake news, we need to be willing to reject the news we love just as much as the news we hate. If you happen across an article with the headline, “New study by the University of Phoenix shows that people who read The Dime have an average IQ of 25 points higher than those who don’t,” yeah, that’s a great story. But just because we like it and want it to be true doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. That’s not to say that you should reject all stories this ostentatious, but the risk here is that you may see something legit but not take it as such due to your confirmation bias.
Another mounting issue in the quest for verifiable knowledge is our individual and collective bullheadedness. When we believe in something, we want to hold on to that isolated fact as if it were a literal treasure trove of completed Subway Sub Club cards. And you know what will definitely not pry that cold, hard “fact” from your ideological opponent’s intellectual grip? Telling him that he’s wrong. Instead, ask him to give you supporting evidence of his opinion. Why exactly does he believe that 9/11 was an inside job? Let him give you evidence, then openly question that evidence, too. Probably one of two things will happen: You’ll learn a lot about the perspective of your opposite viewpoint (which may indeed change your perspective altogether), or the other person will break down his own logic in a way that may topple that Subway Sub Club mountain of “truth” altogether. Plus, you may actually enjoy what that other person has to say—and even make new friend in the process. You know what they say about enemies…
All that said, we hope there’s at least one thing we can assure you of: You can always turn to The Dime for credible, factual advice on retirement, budgeting, conquering your taxes…you name it. And who knows: if you read enough of our content, maybe you really will increase your IQ by 25 points.