Here’s an understatement: we are living in turbulent, confusing and intense times. The press is filled with stories of various crises connected with the pandemic, societal and political unrest, revelations about horrific injustice and inequities that have been overlooked by a large portion of the population, and economic turmoil generating fears about what the future holds. It can be hard to know who to trust and how to gain clear and accurate information. Just because a person or an organization describes themselves as highly trustworthy does not make it so.
Some questions to consider: to what extent are you a critical thinker and a careful consumer of the information being shared in its various forms such as the news, social media, books, podcasts, or conversations? How often do you pause to consider the credentials of the person or organization? To what extent is it factual, well researched, balanced information versus strongly held opinions with an underlying goal of swaying you to embrace specific beliefs? How often do you fact check information?
The University of Tampa’s Macdonald-Kelce Library includes:
Some browers extensions include:
Some additional suggestions:
• Check Credentials – Is the author specialized or do they work in the field that the article is addressing?
• Read the “About Us” section. Reputable websites will have some type of About Us section and will provide a way for you to contact them.
• Look for Bias – Does the article seem to lean toward a particular point of view? Does it link to sites, files, or images that seem to skew to the left or the right?
• Check the Dates – Information can have an expiration date. In most cases, use the most up-to-date information you can find.
• Check out the Source – Check out any cited sources. Official-sounding associations can be biased think tanks or represent only a fringe view or group.
• Examine URLs – Is there domain manipulation? For example, what looks like an .edu domain, followed by .co or “lo” is likely a fake or deceptive site. If you are you seeing a slightly variant version of a well-known URL, do some investigating.
• Suspect the sensational – Exaggerated and provocative headlines with excessive use of capital letters or emotional language are red flags.
• Judge Hard – If it seems too good to be true, or too weird, or too reactionary, it probably is.
Along with working hard to be a critical thinker and careful consumer, consider to what degree do you tend to be more or less a critical person of the actions and even beliefs of others? It turns out that there are actually many types of criticism. Check out the website Marketing91 which describes 18 types of criticism.
People who have a strong tendency to criticize others often have not done careful consumerism but feel entitled to see negatives in other people’s beliefs and actions. Sometimes they listen to others with the goal of finding something to criticize or see negatives all around them and feel entitled to point them out. It is as if they believe they have the right and responsibility to judge, criticize and attempt to humiliate or silence others. They see their viewpoints as facts, not opinions, and take offense to anyone who disagrees.
Sometimes critical statements are made directly to a person or behind a person’s back. People seem more likely to be critical using social media rather than direct conversation with someone who might have the opportunity to defend themself.
I wonder if highly critical people have a strong internal voice of self-criticism that they project on others. Or do they feel superior to others and therefore entitled to be critical of them?
In summary, today especially we have a responsibility in this world of crisis, turmoil, and harsh criticisms to share viewpoints in a balanced way that invites meaningful conversations that can lead to new insights and perspectives.
Invitation for Reflection
- To what extent do you consider yourself to be a careful consumer of information?
- What is your internal processes to examine what is being presented to determine how accurate it is?
- What can you do to enhance these abilities?
- Do you frequently criticize others versus being open and receptive of their viewpoint and their right to their opinions?
- How do you manage those who tend to be highly critical in biased and unfair ways? Do you know how to stand up for your rights and the rights of others?
Diane Wagnehals, Director, Lakeside Global Institute