Four Steps to Take Before Sharing Information
The first thing many of us want to do when we see an interesting article or piece of information is share it. In fact, according to a 2016 study, people are so eager to share a captivating headline that only 40% of people will actually bother to read the accompanying article. Even more unfortunate, our anchor bias means that whatever information we receive first (even what may turn out to be a bogus headline) carries more weight in our minds than any related information we receive after.
Here’s a handy acronym to help you, your friends, family, and students make good choices about what to share, and what to leave alone. When you see a news headline or a piece of information you’d like to share: STOP!
Slow Down. Often what makes us want to share something we see is the emotion it triggers in us, be it anger, fear, excitement, etc. Take a deep breath and remember that a lot of headlines are designed to trigger those emotions, but usually don’t tell the whole story. Try not to let your feelings get the best of you as you dig a little deeper before sharing.
Think Critically. Is the headline shocking? Maybe even a little too shocking? Check the source — is it a publication you’ve heard of and trust? Look to see if the publish date is current, as it could be old news. Look for these and other clues as you think about whether or not the story seems to make sense.
Open Your Mind. Sometimes we really want a story to be true, because it fits so well with what we already know or believe. Reserve judgement as much as you can until you’ve followed your clues and verified your facts, remembering that the story may or may not be true.
Play Detective. In the age of people getting their news through social media, we all get to do the important job of deciding which information we’ll help spread, and which we’ll help quell. Test your mettle as an investigator and follow-up on any red flags you noticed (this should be big news, but no one else seems to be covering it; what is this publication anyway?; if this was published two years ago, how come this is the first I’m hearing about it?) Perhaps most importantly, read the article. Those emotional headlines don’t tell the whole story and can be very misleading, so make sure you’ve done your due diligence before spreading the word.
Follow these four simple steps and help make the Internet a source of good, helpful information.
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