Social Media: Wading Through the B.S.

by - December 07, 2015

 Social media has been a great thing for news. It's also been the worse thing for news.

Before social media, if you wanted to find news on the internet, you yahoo'ed, googled or even asked Jeeve. Occasionally people would share articles through email, but there was no guaranteed way to have hundreds, thousands, even millions of people see your story.

Then along came Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even Pinterest. Now, simply by clicking share, the media can distribute content to way more people than by simply publishing it in a newspaper or airing it in a show.

Long before social media blew up, there were bloggers. I had my first blog back in high school on a website called Xanga. The only people who knew about it were other users. Now don't get me wrong, some blogs were way more popular than others, but there was no way of sharing them outside of the site. Now that social media dominates life, blogs have become more popular. And, unfortunately, that popularity isn't necessarily a reflection of good judgment on the parts of readers.

On any given day, when I scroll through my Facebook feed, I see at least 10 shared articles/posts. Of those, at least half are from non-credible sources. The most baffling part to me is that the people sharing these bogus links are people I consider to be intelligent! Which brings me to the point of this post --  how do you tell the good from the bad online?

First things first -- Let's start with a list of common satire websites. Just like The National Enquirer, these websites shouldn't be taken seriously. They take real news stories and parody them or just make them up altogether. And sadly, it's not just regular people who fall for stories from these type of sites; members of the media have fallen victim to them, as well.

  • The Onion
  • The Daily Currant
  • The National Report
  • SuperTuesdayNews
  • ChristWire
There are other sites you have to beware of, as well. Even though they aren't satire/parody news sites, websites like Occupy Democrats and Right Wing News, aren't a true representation of the truth. Sites like those, especially the politically-motivated ones, are always slanted one way or another. The worst of them will omit or twist information to fit their agenda.

Other sites you should be wary of are news blogs, especially ones that aren't affiliated with a media outlet. Either way, though, the posts are likely to be filled with opinions, hence the blog designation.

If you're still not sure if what you're reading is legit or not, there are a few things you can do to make sure you're not being duped.

First - if the story you're reading makes you think, "I can't believe that happened!" or "I can't believe he/she said/did that!," check out the sites other posts. If they're all of a sensational nature, they're probably not true.

Second - google, yahoo search or, if you prefer, ask Jeeve! If there's no other news sites reporting this story, chances are it's fake, not that your local news media are in on some big cover-up (Sorry, members of the tinfoil hat club).

The lesson of this post is pretty simple - don't blindly accept what you're reading as fact. There are a billion websites out there claiming to share the news, but probably less than half that number are real. Know what you're reading; know who's writing it and why. Every story has more than one side. Real journalists share them all.

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  1. This is a super informative post, and I know that plenty of people could use it. :)