Hello and welcome back to Follow Friday! Today I’d like to share a specific episode of the Liturgists Podcast: Fake News & Media Literacy.

A couple disclaimers: Yes, this podcast is about the intersection of faith, science, and art. But this episode is focused strictly on how we can or should consume information. And second, yes, it is just over an hour long. But it’s worth it, especially if you can listen while driving or getting ready in the morning or making dinner or going for a walk. However, if you just cannot handle listening to the full episode, here are some key takeaways.

Science Mike talks about how he filters all news and information. Here are some questions to ask:

  1. Is there an author listed? If not, that’s sketchy and should cause you to be a wee bit skeptical.
  2. Where was it published? Is there an editorial review board to fact check and hold them accountable to the truth? Do they publish retractions or corrections (public accountability)? Who owns the publication? Do they have a bias or ulterior motives?
  3. What is the date of publication? Fake news sites often don’t list a publication date and sometimes report on stories that are technically true but aren’t current.
  4. Are sources listed? Trustworthy media cites specific sources and gives details. (Occasionally, trustworthy media will have to protect their sources and keep them anonymous, in which case you can continue to pay attention and wait for more information, but it may be too soon to make a judgment on the details.) Saying “studies show…” without naming the studies = red flag!
  5. Is it well-written? Is it full of grammatical or spelling errors? If so, that is not a good sign…
  6. How does it make you feel? Do you feel angry or afraid? If you get all worked up from reading or listening to the story, it’s likely that (potentially) real information was oversimplified or sensationalized. Our emotions aren’t good at analytical decisions, so it’s worth doing further research before sharing.

Also, keep in mind that there’s a difference between fake news and media bias. If bias is disclosed, that is not fake news. It just means that it’s probably worth comparing to other news sources with different (or less) bias.

They also talked with Clay Johnson who wrote The Information Diet. He recommended being a conscious consumer instead of just scrolling through a facebook feed as it is presented to us (and filtered based on our interests and our friends). This source of information is presented in a way that is designed to capture our attention, not necessarily to give us helpful and worthwhile information. We need to have a mindful awareness of the content we’re consuming and make sure that our rational thinking and high order processing parts of our brain are engaged.

Woof. I definitely needed this reminder.

Oh and if this is motivating you to spend less time on facebook (me too!) then you can always get email notifications when I post new stuff here. Just scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page and enter your email address! Or completely ignore this and all other things on the internet and go out and enjoy nature. I guess that’s good too.

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