The answer to any question you might have is quite literally in the palm of your hand (if you have a smartphone), so it’s no wonder people say we're living in the information age. Smartphones, laptops and tablets provide access to a steady stream of information all day, every day. Add to that 24-hour news channels and breaking news showing up on televisions and social media feeds, and it’s like trying to drink from a firehose. It can be a bit overwhelming.
There’s so much information coming at us, it can be hard to know what’s real. Thankfully, a little forethought and proper discernment can help you better understand what information is accurate and what's not.
The old saying goes: Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. Except on the internet, where you might need to believe less than half.
There are many reasons the information you see might not be accurate:
• The story may simply be outdated
• All of the facts may not be present or even known at this time
• You might be looking at purposeful or inadvertent misinformation
In an era when so much is available to everyone, organizations often try to be the first to break a news story. In doing that, they may get the facts wrong.
Other times, people try to alter or distort things to fit whatever narrative they want to support. Worse still, sometimes people just deliberately try to mislead other people into believing things they know are false.
In some cases, the "information" might just be a result of marketing. People go to great lengths to promote products or services, and sometimes that promotion can be mistaken for unbiased reporting on what they’re selling. They might not be meaning to trick people, but it can still happen.
Regardless of intent, seniors are likely to encounter some kind of misinformation online. That’s the nature of the beast when it comes to having that much access. There’s really nothing we can do about misinformation existing, but we can prepare ourselves to be more likely to know it when we see it.
Staying well-informed in general and understanding how the internet works can help older adults spot misinformation when they see it. But here are a few other tips that any senior can put into action.
Asking God to provide you with discernment can help you weed out bad or misleading information that comes your way. But it can also help you learn to avoid it more often by knowing which sources to turn to or where to spend your time. There’s a reason Solomon asked God for wisdom: It applies to all aspects of life.
Marketers and less scrupulous news agencies know that many people only read the headlines. Because of that, they often over-sensationalize headlines to increase shares. You might even see headlines that have nothing to do with the articles!
Before you buy into the premise of or share an article online, read through it. Make sure what's being said is actually what is reflected in the headline.
No news or reporting agency is perfect, and even the biggest issue retractions sometimes. Instead of relying solely on imperfect agencies to present knowledge, go to the source to find out the truth. Click through to links about reports or look the information up for yourself on a reputable website.
If you can't 100% trust news sources, you certainly can't trust everything that's shared on social media. Take a minute to double check the information yourself. A quick Google or Yahoo search on the title of an article or the general gist of the info goes a long way. Just go to the search page, type in the info and see if you get multiple versions of the same story in the results.
If you look up information and it only has one source, you may want to question it. If only one news outlet is reporting something, it may not be accurate. Sometimes you might find multiple sites with the same story, but all of them are using the same original source. That should raise red flags too; good information usually has multiple sources. If the core info is coming from one place, and that place is unknown or can’t be double checked, then it’s best to leave it alone.
A second set of eyes on something can go a long way to helping determine if it seems true or not. One of the benefits of residing in an assisted living community is the ability to reach out to caring staff when you have a need or question. As a faith-based organization, Bethesda Senior Living Communities works to hire trustworthy staff to help seniors as needed, and that can include helping someone know whether information relevant to their safety or health is true or not.