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Editor’s note: This story is part of our MC faculty and staff series in which professors and/or staff discuss relevant topics within their areas of expertise. Jenny Hatleberg is the head librarian for arts and humanities at the Montgomery College Library’s Rockville Campus.

By Jenny Hatleberg

Hattleberg is the head librarian for arts and humanities at the Montgomery College Library’s RV Campus

One of the first things I do every morning is pick up my phone and start scrolling through the notifications that popped up overnight. Sometimes, I do this before I even get out of bed! Does this scenario feel familiar? Like it or not, our connection to the world around us is increasingly filtered through our news feeds and social media.

We are fortunate to be able to share glimpses of common humanity with people all over the globe, whether through a silly TikTok dance craze or a beautiful Instagram photo. Each one of us is empowered to contribute our expertise and experiences with others.

At the same time, each one of us bears the responsibility that comes with this unprecedented access, as we make decisions that impact our own lives and the world we live in. Trying to wade through the amount of information we see, and to select reliable and trustworthy sources, can be overwhelming. Add in various groups deliberately pushing out misinformation, and social media platforms that value return visits and clicks over reliability, and the situation feels frightening.

Fact-checking websites like Snopes, AllSides, and FactCheck.org will often investigate stories that have gone viral on social media to determine whether they are factual. The Montgomery College Library’s Media Literacy in the Age of Fake News research guide links to these fact-checking sites and provides resources you can use to build your skill in asking questions about sources.

Although there is no simple, quick fix to this situation, there are strategies you can use to become more confident about the reliability of information you choose. Just as you have been empowered to create information through the Internet and social media, you are also empowered to evaluate what you see and make deliberate choices about the information you trust.

First, pause and ask questions. Consider where the information is coming from, and whether you can identify the individual or the organization that created it. This is especially important if you had a strong emotional response to the information. Many times, misinformation is designed to get an immediate reaction so that we click, like, and share the content without thinking about its reliability.

Just as you have been empowered to create information through the Internet and social media, you are also empowered to evaluate what you see and make deliberate choices about the information you trust.

Second, try to verify the information by following up in more than one type of source. This can be difficult, since even legitimate news organizations can pick up and pass along inaccurate information (although they will usually publish corrections when this happens). Fact-checking websites like Snopes, AllSides, and FactCheck.org will often investigate stories that have gone viral on social media to determine whether they are factual. The Montgomery College Library’s Media Literacy in the Age of Fake News research guide links to these fact-checking sites and provides resources you can use to build your skill in asking questions about sources.

The Montgomery College Library’s Media Literacy in the Age of Fake News research guide links to fact-checking sites and provides resources

Third, you can deliberately seek out perspectives that are different from your own. All of us are susceptible to confirmation bias, which occurs when we gravitate toward information that we already agree with, often without realizing it. The more we see or hear a statement, the more truthful it becomes in our minds (even if it is false!).

Keeping our minds open to other perspectives, while slowing down our response time to evaluate the validity of the content, is a balancing act that we all must practice.

If you have questions about finding quality information online, you can connect with an MC librarian via text, chat, or an online appointment.

 

Banner photo credit: Getty Images/damircudic

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