Developing Our Palates for Truth in a Fake News Era


Introduction

With the increased conversation around Fake News, I thought it would post a short section on discerning truth in a Fake News era from my book “Age of Kings: Pursuing God’s Heart in a Social Media World.” Buy it Amazon.

Book Excerpt

As we get more and more of our news and information online and through social media, it is vital that we discern between truth and falsehood in the information we are consuming and filter it accordingly.

Just as food critics spend years developing their palates in an effort to distinguish gourmet food made with high-quality ingredients from foods made with artificial ingredients, we need to develop our palates for truth in a world that’s saturated with information. As we train our information-palates to discern correctly, it is vital to identify the six things that aid us to discern truth in an era of fake news.

First, smell it. Smell has a distinct connection to our sense of taste and can help us in our initial assessment. When you see a post, article, video, or meme, ask yourself some initial questions. Is it satire (a surprising number of people have experienced instant outrage at a post, posing as news, when it was really satire)? Does it sound too good to be true (is it playing off your confirmation bias)? Does the headline sound overly provocative (a technique used by clickbait to get you to read something)? Does it look like part of a larger story (stories presented out of their full context can be misleading)?

Second, check the ingredients. Any food critic with a discerning palate knows that fresh organic ingredients always create the best food. Thus, when you are faced with news, posts, videos, or memes, ask the following questions. What are the underlying facts that it is based on (are they from a reputable source)? Is there a scientific study referenced to prove the solution presented (choosing your cancer treatment based on something you read on someone’s blog is not the best medical advice)? What statistics are they using?

Third, check the source. Food connoisseurs know that where ingredients come from makes all the difference. As you evaluate the information shared on social media, check its source. First, look at the web address or original social media account it comes from. Is it from a trusted and legitimate source? If you have any concerns or even a suspicion, do a quick check with a factchecking service online (several exist). Check if the source has a known bias or agenda they are propagating, and consider whether this might affect or influence the information they are giving you.

Fourth, taste it. Food critics know to look past the description and presentation and taste the food. Once you’ve smelled it, inspected the ingredients, and looked at the source, read it and think about it. Truth will always stand the test of examination and reflection. Ask, does it align with the other facts that you know to be true? If not, explore why not. If so, do a sober second thought and double-check if your confirmation bias or your intentional information avoidance tendencies might be at work.

Fifth, discuss it. Truth tends to withstand cross-examination by the community, while fake news does not. The multiple perspectives provided by diverse people help us to see things differently, to ask different questions, and to discern more accurately. Therefore, what if instead of using social media to post with confidence, we used it to discern? What if we were to post a meme with a question (Is this true?) rather than a pronouncement (This is true!). Social media could use more question marks and fewer exclamation marks.

Sixth, savor it. If it is true, savor it. Truth should always take time to process. Allow the new information you have gathered to digest slowly, and see whether it challenges your preconceived ideas and perspectives or affirms your convictions. Remember, truth doesn’t cower from critical reflection and examination; rather, truth dances with joy in their presence.

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