In the Age of Emotive Content, How Do You Discern Good vs. Bad Information?
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've noticed some controversy about the media has been building up over the course of several months. It's almost like nothing is objective anymore, especially when it has to do with politics. At isoTree we don't do politics but we do think, the state of things considered, it's a good time to talk about how to vet the information you get online and elsewhere. Because it's not just political information that can be inaccurate, cherry-picked, misleading or just plain false. It can be any information at all. Finding a reliable source can be difficult.
Everyone who writes content knows how to make it appeal to people. You would be surprised how helpless you are against tried and true psychological marketing. Writers know what catches your eye better than you do because sometimes your decisions are made unconsciously. Even this very article is being written with the intention of getting your eyes on it as best we can, and keeping you engaged. However, we're not trying to mislead or fool you. Your job is to know how you can be sure of that.
Find Out Who the Author Is (and if He Could Be Biased)
Don't just glance at the author's name. Do a web search. What are this author's credentials? Who talks about the author? Has he helped a lot of people in the area of the subject matter or is he usually not involved in that area? All of these questions can give you a picture of how useful his information is.
One of the most important things to look out for is bias. This might seem obvious but just knowing bias and persuasive writing exists doesn't mean you'll be able to restrain yourself when you come across the most intriguing article you've seen in weeks. Refer to the second paragraph of this article to be reminded why you're helpless.
Develop Favorite Information Sources
This only works if you read about a certain area of expertise regularly. Nonetheless, when you find one that has been accurate and helpful consistently, you can stick to it. Normally, search engines are good at revealing these reliable sources because they are recognize how often the sources are linked to and followed on social media. The more links, follows and other indications they get, the more the engines will offer them at the top of your search results list. It's not always the case, though. Just assess the accuracy and usefulness of a source, over several articles or videos, before you call it your favorite.
Note the Date of Publication
You should find the most current information you can, especially if you're learning about something that is constantly changing. Even when it seems like a set of facts or best practices could not have changed in the past year or so, they could have. Sometimes authors use outdated information just to help them achieve their end goal, whatever it may be.
Be a Critic, Always
Always be critical of the information you're taking in, even when it's from a source you have trusted in the past. It may not be a reliable source anymore. Any gaps in supporting information should serve as red flags. You should maintain a "does this make sense?" attitude instead of a "you're the expert" attitude. If an article claims that something works, don't just take their word for it. There should at least be some documentation about how well it works. Some concessions in the area of drawbacks or flaws, as opposed to the implication or claim that something is 100% perfect in every way, are an indication that information is far and accurate.
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