Media literacy

Social media savvy: Carefully wading through fake news in search of the truth

We’ve all likely been victimized or known to someone who has been influenced by misinformation on social media.

While most of the time it’s harmless observations on how to properly water your houseplants religiously shared on time frames, other times it’s potentially damaging information carelessly shared. , which could lead to angst or even mass hysteria.

Do you believe everything you see on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Are you able to think critically about the information you read, check its authenticity against other evidence, available facts and different sources before making a judgment?

“What’s great about social media is that we can share so much information, but what’s awful about social media is also this sharing of information,” said the owner of Bold and Italic, Michelle McCann. “Sometimes it feels like a huge phone game, where the story at the end of the line has nothing to do with what you started with.”

Bold and Italic is a boutique social media and marketing agency based in Truro, Nova Scotia. McCann launched her company in 2013 when she recognized the value of social media for small businesses.

McCann thinks that while there are plenty of people who know social media well and go the extra mile to make sure the information they consume and share is true, there are many more who think that, if they see them on facebook, it must be the truth.

“Sometimes (social media) feels like a huge phone game, where the story at the end of the line has nothing to do with what you started,” says agency owner Michelle McCann. Bold and Italic social media marketing. Photo contributed – Contributed

“Whether it’s a big story or a neighborhood gossip, you have to consider the source when it comes to information.”

McCann follows a number of news accounts on Twitter – local, national and international. “It’s usually my main source of news consumption. I tend to check my feed several times a day to see what people are talking about. I find it’s the fastest way to stay up to date with what is happening in my world.

question everything

Echoing McCann’s idea of ​​a phone game, Halifax-based Kate Sullivan, who is owner, CEO and director of online business at Virtually Connected Solutions, thinks social media feeds contribute to fake news by a ripple effect.

“Someone posts about something that is real (or fake) and by the time everyone is commenting on it, it’s often totally taken out of context and presented in a different light – whether or not the contributor meant it. happen.”

She explains that one cannot always be sure of the source or who is paid to promote or share information.

Kate Sullivan, owner of Virtually Connected Solutions, thinks social media feeds contribute to fake news through a ripple effect.  Photo contributed - Contributed
Kate Sullivan, owner of Virtually Connected Solutions, thinks social media feeds contribute to fake news through a ripple effect. Photo contributed – Contributed

“Unfortunately, the consumption of information and news must be taken with a grain of salt and cross-checked with other sources.”

Diana Lariviere, a marriage commissioner based in Prince Edward Island, says she rarely uses social media for anything other than commercial advertising and close personal exchanges with family and friends. She is of the opinion that social media is completely out of control and has become a platform for disinformation and the expression of personal prejudice.

“Having said that, I have serious concerns about censorship in any form. I still worry about who will have the power to determine what I see, hear and know. say what I have to think. It’s a step backwards and very negative,” she said.


“Always ask another question. Never just nod your head in agreement. In the tutorials I offer on understanding the law, I emphasize three questions constantly at the forefront. Why? Where is this writing? And, what is your legal reference or equivalent?

– Diana Lariviere


Larivière feels that there is a tendency for people to search for information in bits and bytes, rather than taking the time to examine, consider different sources and understand the full picture, so that they can formulate an opinion based on all available facts.

“This is especially true for millennials who grew up in the era of short forms, emojis and cryptic notes,” she said.

She warns people to constantly question themselves.

Marriage Commissioner Diana Larivière believes that social media is an out-of-control platform for misinformation and the expression of personal bias.  Photo contributed - Contributed
Marriage Commissioner Diana Larivière believes that social media is an out-of-control platform for misinformation and the expression of personal bias. Photo contributed – Contributed

“Always ask another question. Never just nod your head in agreement. In the tutorials I offer on understanding the law, I emphasize three questions constantly at the forefront. Why? Where is this writing? And, what is your legal reference or equivalent?

Information overload

Nova Scotia content marketer Linda Daley frankly doesn’t understand why people trust social media so much.

“I’m in my 50s, so it’s hard for me to imagine how easy it is to get caught up. My stepson in his twenties had experiences where I couldn’t figure out how he believed what he read. I don’t mean it’s a generational thing, but more of a life experience.

She consumes her latest news via Twitter on her phone and usually follows the links from there for more information.

“I work in marketing, so I’m well aware that titles and stories can be misrepresented. I’m ultimately a skeptic, so I’m usually looking for confirmation to prove something is true, rather than the other way around.

Daley also thinks that people these days have to process so much information whether they are actively seeking information or not.

“We are overloaded,” she said. “There’s a lot more decision-making than in the past, so our brains have to take a lot of shortcuts.”

On social media, she says, this translates to quick, instantaneous decisions to share something without really knowing if it’s true or not.

“And some will also do it consciously to get attention.”

McCann thinks it’s not always easy to define or recognize fake news.

“Most often fake news is more subtle truth-based misinformation with altered or exaggerated details – think of an event 20 people attended, but the news (source) reports hundreds of people attending.”

She shares that we all suffer from a lack of attention when viewing our feeds and we share articles based on the title alone, without bothering to look at the source, read the article or check the details. .

“Social platforms have recognized that misinformation is a problem and you will often see warnings now when people post links to unverified information. It’s a small step, but an important one. »

Find and reduce

So how do people hone their skills as critical consumers of information on social media instead of blind followers? The first step, according to McCann, is to examine the source of the information.

“If it’s a news organization you know, there’s a much better chance it’s fact-based.”

Then, she advises to look at the publication date of the article.

“News changes quickly in these times and something that was true a week ago may not be true today and social media algorithms make it easy for old news to appear in your feed.”

She also usually tells people to use their own proverbial smell test.

“If it looks like it’s not real – say, a Facebook page offering a house or a motorhome – it probably isn’t.”

One habit Daley works to build is ignoring thoroughness.

“I don’t want and can’t take the time to investigate everything, so I focus on the things that interest me and try to ignore the rest. There are ways to block content across all social media channels – it’s worth taking the time to do.

Social media creates a community. there is no doubt. McCann shares that she has made many real-life friends over the years through social media.

“But it has also divided us and damaged our overall ability as a society to think critically,” she added. As someone who works in social media, she sees what a valuable resource it is for her clients to share their businesses and reach their customers.

“But as a social media user, it can be overwhelming on a good day.”


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