After reading this headline, you may be wondering “why would I need to responsibly consume online content?” Well here’s the thing. With online information being so widespread and easily accessible, it can be incredibly overwhelming, tricky, and even dangerous to determine what information is true or blown out of proportion. I use the word dangerous because we often make decisions based on content we consume. If the wrong content is consumed, these decisions can have a negative impact on our health, political decisions, and even the way we treat each other. I know I am not alone in seeing these negative effects of consuming inaccurate content.
Survey online content before consuming it
There is a difference between surveying content and consuming it. When you survey content, you examine it with a critical eye before you believe it. When you consume content, you accept it as the truth. In order to consume content responsibly, it is necessary to do the former before you can do the latter. It seems like a lot of work, but it’s well worth it.
Research and check the source
There are two ways to approach this tip. The first is to find out from where the article, meme, or other online source came from. Did it come from a well known or credible source? Are other credible sources cited or used as backlinks to support the content’s strength? If you answered “yes” to either one of these questions then you may be in the clear. You may have to do some sleuthing before you can reach those answers. The other way to do your research is by using Google. Now you’re probably thinking that Google is not a trustworthy source. And you’re right. But hear me out on this for one moment. When you are encountering new information that may be hard to believe, it might be because it is. When you Google that very topic, and you find that questionable article to be the only one that pops up in your search, then it may be false information that is trying to get a reaction out of you. I’ve seen several examples of this occurrence but I’d rather not draw your attention to it. I will say that when you take the time to do your research, you may be shocked,and appalled, to find the lengths to which a piece of information or image could be distorted to suit the opinions of a specific audience.
Be subjective and objective
On the subjective level, we all look for information that aligns with our interests and core values. On the objective level, it is important to consider that very subject matter from every angle. For every piece of content that works in your favour, there is a most likely going to be a corresponding piece of content that does not work in your favour. Examine those pieces as well with an open mind, and again, a critical eye.
Read beyond the headlines and headings
Are you still reading this? Yes? Good! It’s best not to develop an opinion of an article until you have read it in its entirety. Better yet, it’s best not to share an article or piece of content until you have read it in its entirety. There’s more that meets the headline or headings. If there’s something that you don’t agree with or you find to be inaccurate then you might be unprepared to face an argument with your peers or colleagues.
When you consume every piece of online content, it can consume you. You want to make sure you’re consuming content responsibly. If this article hasn’t convinced you enough, then consider this analogy. And please excuse me for the graphic nature of it. Consuming and spreading inaccurate content is almost like eating something rotten, vomiting profusely, and then having to clean up the mess. Not fun, not fun at all. Although online content is not tangible, we see that the effects of consuming inaccurate content can be tangible.
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