I think it’s fantastic that so many people have decided it’s a great idea to research items that are offered via the media. This includes broadcast news, cable news, social media, etc. It shows a desire for people to be informed about the world around them, and the events that effect their daily lives. There is, however, one huge problem, and it is mainly extant on Social Media. Particularly Facebook.
Claims of “I do my own research” are prevalent within both original posts and especially in the comments section. Comments and statements like this are not, in of themselves, problematic. The fact that people are willing to dig a little deeper is a sign, to me, that our society is still inquisitive, and still desires to educate themselves.
The problems begin to arise when those stating that they do their own research are combined with comments such as “the truth will set you free,” or something similar. These statements allude to the individual possessing some new or previously hidden/censored information that explains any given situation that differs from what is being disseminated from the mainstream media.
This is not to say that the mainstream media always gets it right, or hasn’t been involved in their fair share of scandals for playing fast and loose with the truth. Or that they have dropped the ball on doing proper research. There are very few, if any, mainstream media outlets that are free from these occurrences, although some have more baggage than others.
But the keywords that I am focusing on today is “proper research” because it isn’t enough just to do research. It is paramount that the method and sources of research are reliable and as free from bias as humanly possible.
Proper research is when you come across information and use sources to verify that information as true or not by using sources that may very well prove that the information you have is false.
Let me give you an example.
Let’s say you are looking to buy a new car. You have your budget set, and are ready to start researching what kind of car to buy. You remember hearing that Toyotas are great cars and will last long, several friends own Toyotas, and they seem very happy with them. So, you go on your favorite social media network and tell all of your friends that you are about to embark on a search for a new Toyota. You are excited. Then comes a comment on your post that says to never buy a Toyota because they are notoriously unsafe and have been implicated in many deaths.
Now, you have a couple of choices.
Choice One: You can open Google and do a search for people who have been killed by defective Toyotas. You will undoubtedly end up with page after page of information regarding a problem they had several years ago with stuck accelerators. Now you are scared to buy a Toyota because you are convinced that you are going to die in one., In fact, you not only don’t buy a Toyota, but you proceed to spread unvetted websites and videos about the horrors of owning a Toyota vehicle all over social media, and whenever anyone posts anything even remotely about Toyotas, you offer your expertise and resources in the comment section.
Congratulations. You are now a distributor of fake news because your research was one-sided and flawed, at best.
Choice Two: You can open Google and do a search for people who have been killed by defective Toyotas. You will undoubtedly end up with the same page after page of information regarding a problem they had several years ago with stuck accelerators. But then, you continue on and research the overall reliability of Toyotas. You check Consumer Reports, Edmunds, NADA, browse Toyota owners forums, check with watchdog agencies, ask your friends who own Toyotas. In short, you find out everything you can about Toyotas. Now, you know that Toyota has experienced problems over the years on occasion, but overall they are very reliable vehicles with few maintenance problems, are priced reasonably, competitive with more expensive brands, and are relatively inexpensive to repair.
Congratulations. You have made an informed choice.
The first scenario plays out regardless of what the subject is. Cars, hardware stores, politicians, bowling balls, cheese crackers, coronaviruses, etc., etc. Also, the first scenario plays out regardless of world view, ideology, spirituality, or political leanings.
Bad research is no respecter of persons, and if you think because you belong to (insert political party here), or (insert religious affiliation here), or (insert world view here), or even (insert ideology here), that people like you would never, ever, ever disseminate fake news, false information, wacky conspiracy theories, or just plan old crazy, you are patently wrong.
You may not see it in your news feed because social media pretty much allows you to see what it wants, but I can tell you with great certainty that this is a worldwide problem and it is causing such a level of mistrust between us that it can lead to (insert your favorite apocalypse followed by your favorite dystopian future.)
Do you research, but research without bias, without looking for a result that would please you, and without posting your information on social media before you have the whole story.