A News Reality–What Is Real And What Is Fake?

It is important to check sources when getting information on social media.

McKenna Casey, Staff Editor

The Internet. Something we all use on a day-to-day basis has changed how we see the world. We have supercomputers in our pockets and listening devices in our homes–50 years ago this would seem like a funny reality from a movie or book, but for us, it’s everyday life. This technology comes at a cost, however. Now we are accessible at all times, with a tap of a button a day could be ruined or made. “I got a puppy!” and “Jake has passed away” are two examples, both have different emotions but can be delivered at the same time though social media.

What exactly is social media? It can be many different things, but most people think of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. While these are all social media sites, there are many more, such as text messages, Skype calls, Discord servers, or Youtube.

According to Google, “Social media is websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” This broadens the term across most platforms many teenagers find in their everyday lives, but how does this affect them?

Currently there is a tactic companies are using to influence media users that is shocking, it’s called “Outrage media.” It is exactly like it sounds–they use something unbelievable to gain attention. For example, at the beginning of December of 2018, news media outlets made posts about “People from the LGBT community want Santa to be gender neutral!” The news outlets used an already marginalized group as a way to get more readers by saying the group wanted something that many would disagree with. The worst part of this tactic, however, is when groups get caught in the crossfire. The headlines took a survey out of context and used it to create controversy. Many people who only read the headline were led to believe that people in the LGBT community just “wanted” a gender neutral Santa. What actually happened, according to Snopes and Fox News Houston, a logo company gave a survey to around 4,000 people in the US and UK asking how they would rebrand Santa for the modern society (as in a whole new persona). About 17 percent, only 174 people, said “I would rebrand Santa as gender neutral”.  By looking into multiple sources, you can find the truth.

With social media invading our brains, more and more people are fact checking less. They will believe the first headline they see without even reading the article. For example, an article titled “Why I killed my dog” could lead you to believe the person the article is about is a dog killer, when the reality is the dog was very sick and would never get better so the person put the dog out of his misery. Now say the author was covering a political figure, they have made controversy on the internet. “President Applesauce (fake person for this example) is a dog killer! I can’t believe you voted for them!” People share this false information across their social network, to the next person’s network, and so on. Eventually, this will become national news and President Applesauce has to go onto the news networks to tell everyone that they are not a dog killer and what really happened. It comes full circle to the news channels who make loads of money off this “misunderstanding”, when in fact they made it sound that way on purpose.

This is why many teachers require their students to use “credible sources.” However, what they really should be telling them is to cross-reference.  This means using multiple different sources to confirm the facts they have, but make sure they are not referencing each other. This is another trick that news sites use to spread false media.  By having fact checked, the misinformation network has come to a halt. Remember, any facts you hear from the internet are possibly wrong until triple checked.

As the youth in the community, it is our job to remain informed and to stop false media from spreading. When making a post check your info and think about how people will respond to it. Why are you making the post? Will it make the Internet a better place? Am I comfortable about having anyone I meet see this forever? All good questions to ask, but the most important one, should I post this?