A while ago, I wrote another piece about misinformation on the internet but, every New Year brings new misinformation. So here it goes again.
First off, okay, Tom Brady doesn’t actually have an Illuminati Super Bowl Trick, but you are reading this, which shows that you are the target audience for this article. In today’s world where anyone with a keyboard and Internet connection can claim to be an authority, you have no doubt come in contact with (and maybe even shared) information which is simply not true. It has become especially important for people to be able to identify the difference between real information and misinformation that floats around online, as well as how to properly respond to it.
That being said, here are FIVE easy principles to stop misinformation on the Internet.
1) Source check:
Sometimes, the easiest and simplest way to determine if something is true or not is by checking out the website providing this information. There are many fake news websites that are dedicated to writing news that isn’t actually real (yes, believe it or not, it does exist and it is hilarious!). If you see any “news” coming from The Onion, The Daily Currant, The Borowitz Report, News Mutiny, Hollywood Leek, The Spoof, etc., the news you are reading is not real; it is fake and intended to be a joke.
For those that don’t know yet, BarelyAdventist is a satire site dedicated to spoofing Adventism. It’s funny, lighten up.
A few sample headlines would be like these taken from other sites:
- “Study Reveals: Babies Are Stupid
- “Area Stoner Has Mind-Blowing Out-Of-Cheetos Experience”
- “Study: Dolphins Not So Intelligent on Land”
- “Kennedy Slain By CIA, Mafia, Castro, LBJ, Teamsters and Freemasons”
- “Couple, Married by Ryan Bell, Wonders If They Are Still Married”
- “Collegedale Man Arrested for Trying to Dump Burning Coals on Neighbor’s Head”
A key word that you should keep in mind here is satire. Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society (Elliott, Robert C (2004), “The nature of satire”, Encyclopedia Britannica).
If you are not sure if something is true or not, here are some good websites to keep in mind:
Google.com (it’s really that simple)
Also, even if the website isn’t satirical, it could still be extremely biased either politically, religiously or otherwise and be misinformed. Remember just check your sources.
Get the point? This brings me to our second principle:
2) If it sounds too ridiculous to be true, it most likely isn’t true.
Last year around this time, there was a rumor that Pope Francis recently said at a Vatican council that, “the church no longer believes in a literal hell, Adam and Eve were fictitious, all religions are true, and the Catholic Church is going to start ordaining women priests”? Hmm, the Pope will really admit that his entire church has been wrong all along? Doesn’t that all sound just a little too out there? Yeah, that’s because it most likely is not true.
There are a score of more recent news stories that I could point to but just remember this rule: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck… it’s a duck.
3) Don’t post up anything that you’re not prepared to defend.
This is a great principle that I go by which has probably saved me more times than I can count. Just because something is interesting to me doesn’t mean that I should share it. This goes with the previous two principles; if I haven’t done my research and am not prepared to defend what I have found, I don’t waste my time by hitting “Share.” Only share what you yourself have checked into and can defend. Don’t share something because it is shocking and you want to be the first person on your News Feed to break this incredible news you just heard… that’s usually the fastest way fake news is spread.
One caveat to this point is that you also shouldn’t spend all your time defending what you write. If you post something up and are willing to defend it, but have an overwhelming response or if responding would take away time from doing something else more productive, keep your responses short or don’t engage to begin with.
4) Be ESPECIALLY suspicious when it comes to any conspiracy theory.
Recently, I saw a YouTube video claiming that there was a demonic conspiracy behind the Monster Energy Drink. That goes along with another one about the SDA logo being masonic (because the letter A looks like a pyramid and we all know how Freemasons loooooove hiding their symbols right under our noses? Insidious…). Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t something going on behind the scenes (after all, Adventists do believe in this thing called “the Great Controversy,” which exposes a conspiracy of sorts). But by their very nature conspiracies cannot be proven either fake or true. So what have you just done? You’ve put a piece of unverifiable information on the Internet which doesn’t edify the body of Christ as much as it creates a feeling of fear and dread about the “Devil’s work”.
Conspiracies don’t always attack others. Sometimes, they even attack within the church. Just this past week, I received an anonymous email (those are the best ones) about a supposed conspiracy theory being pushed in 2015 by the SDA church leaders and the Nature of Christ. A good Adventist conspiracy theorist recipe consists of one half-truth, sprinkle in generous amounts misapplied Ellen White quotes and have it presented by someone with a borderline personality disorder.
As a pastor, I would rather uplift Jesus and His work instead of anything that the Jesuits, Illuminati, Knights of Columbus, Masons, The Muppets, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, or any other secret organization may or may not be up to. More than that, though, posting these kinds of things that cause fear/speculation do nothing to bring people into a closer walk with Jesus. Oh, it may scare them to think, “Man, times are really getting close to Jesus’ second coming. I should really get my life together.” But fear is typically a very terrible and short-lived motivator because once the feeling of fear wears out, you tend to slip back into old habits.
5) Don’t be a fact check Nazi.
Okay, so you may have followed all of the above principles and realized that Tom Brady doesn’t have any Illuminati tricks. But, how do you go about in pointing out this error to your friend who has this misinformation all over their social media page? Remember the golden rule: do unto others as you would like them to do to you. How would you feel if someone publicly called you out online? Sometimes, the best thing to do is one of three things:
- A) Send them a private message (if they are a friend).
- B) Write them a simple note that corrects their information and provide them with a source for your corrected information.
- C) Do nothing. Yes, this is sometimes actually a good option.
As another blog site put it:
“Being helpful and pointing out a hoax or false rumor is nice, but if doing so begins to damage your ability to be productive, it’s time to hang up your hat. Everyone has that one friend that will continue to re-share everything in their feed, no matter how many times they’re reminded to double-check. Sometimes the best solution is to say nothing at all.
Ultimately, you have to realize that you’re not going to fix the Internet’s problems single-handedly, which is a very liberating thought. You are free to do other things. Your life does not need to center around exposing Nigerian princes.”
Put these principles into practice in your life and you will soon be a helpful, trusted source of factual information for those around you!