Today is the two year anniversary of this blog, well at least this version of this blog. On this wonderful anniversary I want to remind everyone that the internet is generally full of crap, and often so are people. For every piece of reputable information there is countless rumors, misinformation, and downright falsehoods. Separating truth from fiction is equal parts a mental battle and diligent research. These truths are in fact why this blog started in the first place. People like McCampbell, Stachura, and Godziszewski gave us that lesson for years. Endlessly having their misinformation called out and proven to be lies.
As long as words are hitting the page, news and facts are filtered through someone. Sometimes this is a ludicrous rumor that somehow morphs into a fact. Filtering out the junk from the actual facts is hard, but it’s not impossible.
We should also quickly talk about how and why misinformation travels so quickly. A number of reasons for this exist, but two are more prevalent than others. First off, we have belief perseverance, which is described as:
Belief perseverance: maintaining your original opinions in the face of overwhelming data that contradicts your beliefs. Everyone does it, but we are especially vulnerable when invalidated beliefs form a key part of how we narrate our lives.
Essentially, once an idea becomes a “fact” in our head, we have a hard time believing that the opposite is true even when it’s disproven. This is how myths and rumors gain steam.
Belief perserverance also plays well with cognitive bias: flaws in judgement where we make statistical or attribution errors based on patterns. These biases include confirmation bias, where we tend to ignore information we don’t agree with, and the bandwagon effect, where we tend to go along with what other members of a group are doing.
Essentially, both make spotting misinformation difficult because we believe just about anything if we want it to be true. The only fix is to acknowledge that we all do this. Once we do, it’s time to start digging for truly reliable information.
Misinformation is everywhere, and although it’s tough to find the truth, it’s not impossible.
Happy Anniversary to all those that have contributed to the spreading of the truth through this blog. Looking forward to many more.