Mindful Consumption of Media
While not a recent phenomena, society has seen how the rise and spread of fake news is becoming more common these days, with the increasing popularity of social media as a tool for spreading (mis)information. It has come to a point where we, as netizens, often find ourselves questioning what is true or false!
The dangers of fake news
The detrimental effects of fake news was clearly observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, where such information triggered fear and confusion, and misinformation spread to the point where many believed household disinfectants such as bleach could be used to protect against the disease (as was published on digital media) and consequently, needed emergency medical attention (Nelson et al., 2020).
Additionally, it has even been shown that excessive consumption of fake and negative news can trigger the release of stress hormones, leading to an increase in fatigue, anxiety, depression and insomnia (Lindberg, 2020). Hence, as misinformation tends to be sensational and controversial, it would likely trigger emotional responses that are often not healthy for our mental states (Baptista & Gradim, 2020).
Why do we fail to recognise fake news?
However, it can be difficult to distinguish fake news from legitimate news when we do not stop and reflect on the accuracy of the information being shared on social media.
One likely reason for this could be our susceptibility to sensationalized and catchy news titles. Issues such as violence, drama, and other basic needs play an important role in human survival and reproduction, hence triggering emotional responses.
With the emergence of modern digital media, the world has seen a change in how such news is communicated, yet the underlying emotional response and attraction to such sensationalized pieces still remain. (David & McLeod, 2003)
Competition among media outlets further exacerbates this issue as coverage tends to focus on more sensational and attention grabbing issues (Arbaoui, De Swert & van der Brug, 2020; Lindberg, 2020), which may explain why it has become so widespread in our media landscape.
Spotting fake news
Is it possible to keep ourselves safe from fake news? The answer is yes! Human reasoning, when applied appropriately, is powerful enough to resist our attraction to misinformation and see through these smokescreens (Pennycook & Rand, 2021).
Here are some tips to put that into action!
1. Be more discerning! Do not believe news as it is and always fact check using multiple reliable websites or sources. Check for conflict of interests and see how arguments are framed.
2. Follow news websites that are credible and authentic! Try to avoid places which are known to sensationalize the information they put out.
3. Pause and reflect before sharing any type of information, and think of the impact it might have on other readers.
4. Find out and acknowledge our own biases, and be aware of them when reading articles. Understand how it might affect your perception of the points put out. Try not to share news without reading articles fullys.
Let’s put these tips into action and counter the negative effects of fake news. For more ideas, do check out our other articles too!
Arbaoui, B., De Swert, K., & van der Brug, W. (2020). Sensationalism in news coverage: A comparative study in 14 television systems. Communication Research, 47(2), 299-320. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650216663364