6 Top Ways To Check Internet Facts
February 9th, 2015 10:49:00 am
When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. ~ Unknown
Oh my gosh! Unknown?! What are you talking about unknown?! John Lennon said that! Why don’t you give credit where credit is due?
Man, did I take it on the chin for that! But guess what? Before I post anything, I work hard to assign proper credit to the author. Unfortunately, I could not find any reference to an actual interview or written work where John Lennon (or anyone else for that matter) said or wrote this. It first began appearing on Tumblr circa 2008 and seems to be the combo of a Charlie Brown cartoon strip from 1960 and actress Goldie Hawn’s 2005 memoir.
But the power of public opinion and mass persuasion is very strong and frankly, since I started my page about three years ago, I never faced such hostility.
So what’s the deal? It’s not surprising to me that people are so easily persuaded. After all, my automatic brain theory holds true in most of my life observations. That is, our primitive nature works to protect us from danger, threat, or vulnerability and it has evolved to instinctively detect safety in numbers. (We have a divine nature too but that’s not what’s operating here).
A modern term, “viral”, fits with this. Viral may be a collective laugh by the masses or the development of a common belief. Either way, it spreads like wildfire and once it takes hold the individuals who are a part of the viral spread feel protected by the masses on their side—they feel affirmed, validated, and, hence, protected.
But we all know the dangers of mass persuasion and uncritical devotion to a particular doctrine, philosophy, belief, or authority figure. Remember a guy named Hitler? In 1963, psychologist Stanley Milgram performed the now infamous Milgram experiment at Yale University. In summary, the experiment consisted three participants: a director, a “teacher”, and a “learner”. The latter was separated from the former two by a wall. The director instructed the teacher to administer increasing electric voltage to the learner, when the learner could not answer a particular word problem. The director informed the teacher that this is how one learns and they must continue or the experiment would not work. The direction became increasing stern and forceful, as the teachers grew more uncomfortable. The teachers had no way of knowing that the shocks were not real. Under increasing pressure, 60% of them ended up administering the highest electric shock, despite noises indicating the learner was in much distress. This experiment has been duplicated elsewhere.
So, what does this have to do with our trust in what we read, see, or hear? Well, it just means we need to be careful about following public opinion or blindly following. We also must be on guard to avoid reflex acceptance or rejection.
I certainly have done my fair share of reflexively and mindlessly commenting on an RIP post or a quotation before and have learned from my mistakes. But before you join that next revolution, I suggest taking a few steps to check it out.
1. Google It
That simple. Really, it only takes a couple seconds. You will find out pronto whether your beloved soup opera star of the eighties is really dead. Don't stop on the first page. go a few pages in so to bypass the current trend or buzz as it may not be accurate.
2. Wiki It
Wikipedia is an incredible encyclopedia. Granted it is not always 100% correct, but it is enough of the times that will help you separate most fact from fiction.
3. Try Snopes.com
This is an “urban legend” site. I have found this site fairly accurate. Although, over the years, I have noticed a somewhat liberal leaning bias in some of its hashing out of politically driven rumors or "legends".
4. Check Out TruthOrFiction.com
Similar to Snopes, but perhaps a less partisan version of it.
5. Search QuoteInvestigator.com
The name says it all! Before you attribute a quote to a particular person, I suggest visiting this site. Just sayin’!
6. Visit Medscape.com
This is a decent resource to all things medical. Of course, they do have a bias toward conventional thinking, however, they do also give you an opportunity to search for any particular compound, such as vitamin or herb and give a fairly accurate description.
Before you believe everything you read, I suggest checking out these “fact-checking” sites. They will give you the ability to formulate an informed opinion rather than simply following the crowd. I think John Lennon knew a thing or two about following the crowd and I think if he were around today, he would hesistate before jumping on the band wagon.
© Dr. Charles F. Glassman, CoachMD