Quick Tips for Fact Checking on Social Media

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Fact checking information before sharing on social media is very important, but often overlooked in society today.

I’ve seen time and time again people sharing something simply because it offends them or they are emotionally touched by it. False information is so good at that.

The best way to fact-check information is to Google the information. If only one source is sharing it, it’s likely false. Second, you can read the article. Headlines are misleading, and are disproved by the article itself. Another way is to read comments on social media. If it’s on Facebook, for example, oftentimes you’ll see lots of comments saying the information is fake.

It’s important when you see this false information that you do not share it. This spreads it further, and it benefits no one.

Let’s get into it.

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Why Do We Share False Information?

As consumers of information, we all mean well. We think when we share things that it’s truth. So why do so many share incorrect information?

No one is the villain in their own story – George R.R. Martin

So why do all these well meaning people share information that’s false?

It looks real, and they want to believe it.
Illusionary Truth Effect
Confirmation Bias
They only read the headline, not the article

What is Illusionary Truth Effect?

Very basically, the illusionary truth effect theory means if you hear something enough, it becomes truth in your mind. You’ll recall a lot of these from your childhood, and they shape your views as an adult.

Examples of Illusionary Truth Effect

Cracking your knuckles gives you arthritis
We only use 10% of our brain
Wear a jacket or you’ll catch a cold

What is Confirmation Bias?

Interpreting new information through the eyes of the information you already know as true.

What does that man? You see the evidence that confirms your thoughts. Odds are you don’t even realize you’re doing it. This is a natural tendency.

Problems of Confirmation Bias

It’s difficult to look at situations objectively, because your brain has already decided it confirms your suspicions, you’re less likely to confirm the information’s validity.
It’s natural to ignore information that go against your existing beliefs.
It’s comfortable, so we are less likely to question it.

The people you see sharing this information that is glaringly fake are still people, just like you, they just have a different opinion or political view from you.

They have families, worries, and have their own beliefs of right and wrong. They are not bad people.

This is an important fact we forget in the age of social media.

When someone shares something you don’t agree with, it’s easy to think they’re stupid, and respond to them with that thought in your mind.

Just like you, they are people, maybe even your friends or loved ones.

If it’s not something you would say to their face, don’t say it online.

Related: Self-Care Tips to Survive Self Isolation

How Can You Tell an Article is Fake?

You may have a hard time differentiating fact and fiction without looking it up first, and that’s okay. It’s important to recognize the need to fact check MOST articles you’ll see online.

Most?! Why do you have to look up so many?

Because “news” outlets are really good at speaking to their ideal audience, and those audience members are good at spreading that false narrative.

More importantly, you have to look up things that you agree with politically too.

Recently, this photo has been floating around the internet of President Trump in front of a church holding a bible next to a photoshopped picture of Hitler with a bible. It’s meant to show the similarities of the dictator to the United States President. A quick google search for “Hitler and bible” shows that this is a false picture.

Google Will Tell You If It’s Fake

By the time this information gets to social media, and gets to you, it’s probably already been proven true or false.

Never just take information at face value, if it sounds absurd, look it up.

What Search Terms Do You use to Check Validity?

the Web site, you can see if it’s a satire site, or a has a media bias, you can also check https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/
the topic, you can see who else is reporting this information. If it’s fake, you’ll see only the original Web site posting it.
any legislation related to the article.
Images you found can be Reverse Image Searched on Google. Here is some information about how to do that: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808?hl=en

I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your own research on bills and legislature.

Every news source has it’s own way of talking about what’s on a bill, and it will sway you one way or another. Oftentimes this view is skewed and retold on other news sources.

Fake news is designed to feed into your pre-existing biases, like we talked about above, so put those aside before you hit share.

Read The Article

A reliable, credible news source generally uses multiple sources, and has links in the article to those sources. They’ll link to a PDF of any bills they mention, data extracted from surveys, or they’ll give quotes from experts, eye witness accounts, etc.

Does it sound reliable, or can you easily spot holes in information? Look for that!

Check out the home page, and see other articles they have written, do they all sound ridiculous or unproven?

Check the about page, are they actually a satire site?

Related: Stressed Out From Dealing with People You Don’t Agree With On Social Media? Try Going For A Walk. Click here to read how Walking Can Change Your Life, Mood, and Stress.

Read Some of the Comments

Similar to Google, if you look at the comments often times you’ll see if someone has already done the work to find out if it was fake.

There are times you’ll have to look at the original post to check, which is easy, click on the original post’s time-stamp, you can see below.

I reposted from “Kids Safety Network”, you can see their post by tapping or clicking on “June 1 at 2:00 PM”. Give it a try:

😂🥰🤷‍♀️

Posted by The Life of a Navy Nuke Wife on Saturday, June 6, 2020

Here are a few quick tips to remember before you rely on comments as sources of information.

It’s a quick win, when you don’t really want to exit the app or visit another site to see if it’s true for yourself.
Since it’s quick and easy, it’s less reliable. For best results, look it up yourself.
Only really works on a piece with lots of comments.
Biggest sites have comments, make sure you view them by “most relevant” first

Are you confused how to find “most relevant” on Facebook? Here are two screenshots that will help, one is mobile, the other is on a desktop (or laptop).

What Can You Do About Fake Sharing?

There are a few things you can do, if it’s not someone you know, it’s perfectly okay to just delete them or take them out of your newsfeed. You don’t owe anyone anything.

When they are strangers, your words likely won’t have an effect on them, and it’s not worth your time or energy.

Decide Who You Want to Be

Is it truly fake, or does it make you uncomfortable?

If it’s truly fake, you can message the poster, or you can comment underneath with your research, if you wish. You can do nothing about it, that’s fine too.

It is important to remember: If you do tell someone why it’s fake, they might get upset.

They may respond with why they posted it, or why they still think it’s true. That’s their confirmation bias talking, and it’s completely normal, and human to feel that way. It also might expand into a deeper conversation about their views and opinions, and you could learn something new.

No one likes to be wrong.

Going onto someone’s post to tell them just how wrong they are is not going to go over well. Ever.

Never. Ever. Use social media to insult people.

Choose kindness. Every time.

I have a good friend who often posts things that I don’t agree with. We have had lots of great conversations about each of our sides. I’ve learned so much from her, and I hope I have given her information she can learn from also.

So there are going to be a few questions you can ask yourself about this situation, and what you want to do about it.

Do you want to understand their point of view, or do you want to be right?

My husband gave me this fantastic advice once, and I still carry it in my mind when I’m talking to people. You can be right, or you can have friends.

If you want to be right, you’ll find an echo chamber of friends who agree with you, and amplify your thoughts and opinions. The problem? You will have a very hard time changing your opinions, and growing as a person. You might find your social media account a very comfortable place, and . . . well good for you.

If you want to understand their point of view, or perhaps have a good conversation, you’ll have to listen to other sides and different opinions, even if you don’t agree.

How to Have a Different Opinion on Social Media

This is a bit of a touchy subject. I grew up in a time of “we don’t talk about politics or religion”, so there is a large section of our population who just doesn’t know how to respectfully disagree.

It’s okay to have different opinions about what is good or bad for your country. You live a different life than everyone else on social media, so you will have a different perspective. That’s what makes the internet great.

Learn from everyone you meet, and admit when you’re wrong.

Here is a few dos and don’ts for debating on the internet.

DoDon’t
listen and understand your oppositionuse personal attacks when the conversation isn’t in your favor.
allow them to respond so you can have a back and forth conversationbombard with facts and articles.
Post one article at a time, explaining why you find it relevant to the conversation. try to silence your opposition

Books About Debating / Disagreeing Online

When I’m not sure what I need to know, I look to books to supplement my knowledge.

A lot of times I’m not even sure the right questions to ask, which makes googling the answers hard. These are great resources to introduce you to the world of debating and speaking effectively.

Thank You For Arguing, What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About The Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinricks. Now a book like this often sounds pretty boring, but I am loving this one. It’s hilarious and so easy to relate. Click here to see the price on Amazon.
You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney This one hilariously makes me feel like a total loser, but also opens my eyes to my own shortcomings when I am consuming information. We are all flawed. Click here to check the price on Amazon
Conversationally Speaking: Tested New Ways to Increase Your Personal and Social Effectiveness by Alan Garner – This one is more general conversation skills, which are always good to polish up on. This is a book I recommend to everyone.

Thanks for reading, I’d love for you to hang out and pull up a chair.

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    2 thoughts on “Quick Tips for Fact Checking on Social Media”

    1. Thanks for these great tips for fact-checking on social media or whenever sharing information. When info on Covid first started circulating, I almost shared some incorrect medical advice. It’s no fun having friends and strangers tell you your facts are wrong! So glad I double-checked.

      My favorite tip is checking the comments. Lots of smart folks out there who have a little more information.

      Your section on respectfully disagreeing is an important part of this topic. Well done!

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