When it came to finding a fake news source for this blog post, I had absolutely no problems because I already know the queen of fake news – a family member near and dear to my heart. I’ve tried, on multiple occasions, explaining to her that these Facebook “news sources” she gets her news from are not trustworthy. But, because her best friend also likes and shares these articles, she won’t hear me out. I’ve learned to pick and choose my battles.
As a Political Science major and PR pro, it hurts every time I see the fake news headlines pop up as I scroll through Facebook: “Hillary Clinton Pays Liberals to Abort Every White, Male Baby Because She Hates America.”
Did I just make that headline up? Or was it really published? The fact you even have to assess whether this headline is real or fake shows there is a problem.
On a lighter (read: non-political) note, my sweet family member shared this gem of a post the other day:
Resort kill horse after Dj Khaled broke its back during video shoot [VIDEO]
She captioned it with “The poor animal didn’t deserve this.”
When I first read this headline, I actually considered whether it could be true. To be fair, I have zero background when it comes to the weight capacities of horses. It does have a clickbaity ring to it, but it also literally has [VIDEO] written in the headline, so does that mean there’s a video of DJ Khaled breaking a horse’s back?
Spoiler Alert: No, DJ Khaled not break any horse’s back. He did go horseback riding on his recent vacation to the Bahamas and shared a video montage of his horseback riding adventure, but that horse is alive and well.
Thank God for Snopes, am I right?
Even though fake news isn’t a new concept, the rise of social media is changing the way we digest our news, making it more difficult to discern which headlines are 100% truthful. There’s an unprecedented amount of media being thrown at us every single day, whether it’s through our Facebook and Twitter feeds or during our favorite radio show we listen to on our morning commute.
Fortunately, big internet companies like Facebook are taking action by banning and filtering fake news, but fake headlines will still fall through the cracks – this is why being media literate is so important. We, as daily consumers of media, can slow the momentum of fake news by (a) thinking critically about what messages are true and (b) not sharing said messages and flagging them as fake news.
How can you practice media literacy? Be skeptical and consider your sources. If a headline sounds like breaking news that is too good (or bad) to be true, then it probably is. If you’re still really unsure if it’s fake news, resist the urge to click through and google it on your own.
In order to develop an informed understanding of the media messages we encounter, we have to be critical of their motives. Although the Shakeweight infomercial tells me I won’t be able to live without it, I can critically assess that’s not true and they probably just want my money. By practicing media literacy, we’re not only combatting the spread of fake news, but also challenging the the way media impacts our thoughts and decisions. In the end, we’re left with less manipulation and better perspective on the things surrounding us in our day-to-day lives.