The Importance of Fact Checking

Apr 4, 2017

Cathy: We’d like to talk about the importance of fact checking especially in social media. This is Dr. Liz from Sex-Positive Psych.

Liz: This is Cathy Vartuli from The Intimacy Dojo.

Cathy: And this is again a delicate topic. We seem to pick a lot of them this weekend.

Liz: We’re just looking for like the hot button.

Cathy: Yeah. One of the things we want to talk about and I know my feelings are very intense and a lot of people’s feelings are intense. We’re talking about the election and other things that are going on. There’s a lot of urge like I’ll see – I’ll be reading something else, “Donald Trump did this horrible thing.” And I’m like, “Argh!” And I wanted to tell all my friends and gather them up and rally about it. It’s really easy to just hit that share button.

Liz: Right.

Cathy: Or that comment button. Like without necessarily going deep breath, who posted this? Who wrote this? Who – like is this actually true? And I don’t want to be manipulated by people that just want to sell ads. I don’t want to be manipulated by Russia or any other countries that might be …

Liz: Black propaganda.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: And that like from a psychological perspective, when your limbic system is strongly activated with strong emotions, it can override your frontal lobes, which is where you do critical thinking, future planning, all those kind of executive functions.

And so, when you see something that triggers those very strong emotions in you, it can be hard to find that place of self-control to take that step back and say, “OK. Well, who posted? Are they reputable? What sources do they cite? Is everything that they cite referencing back to the same thing?” Taking that time to take a critical look at the things that we’re posting.

Cathy: Yeah. So during the election, there were people that were writing really inflammatory information just to make – they were headline grabbers. They wanted to get into page so their ads would sell on that page. And they were making money of it. And so, they would make up news or exaggerate news without fact checking and people were believing it. And especially when we see – our brains …

Liz: And there were a lot of very popular sites that do this.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Like Real Pharmacy, Food Babe, there extra link in the comments. There’s a whole web page devoted to fake news sites that you should probably avoid on both sides of the political aisle that are known for having poor relationships with facts.

Cathy: Yes. So just because we see something multiples times, our brain thinks it’s true.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: Our brain did not evolve especially our primitive part of our brain wasn’t going to be inundated with false information. If you saw a lot of bears, it was a really dangerous place to be. And so we can get naturally triggered by stuff and it’s natural to want to share with our friends, “There are bears over there. Don’t go there.”

Liz: And it can kind of become the this feedback loop where you’re angry and you share it and other people who comment on are angry and then it keeps getting you angrier or you’re scared and you share it and it keeps getting you more scared. And it keeps cutting off that ability to critically think and to take that step back that you need to make good decisions.

Cathy: The problem with this is, not only does it get us upset and misinformed but it actually takes away some of our power. It distracts by false – we’re attacking things that aren’t there or focusing our energy and thoughts on that versus the things that we can really make a change at. And in politics, in our own community, there’s all this – there’s a tendency for and this is just human, for people to get caught up in the drama of things and it is very dramatic, the politics right now.

Liz: It is.

Cathy: And everyone has sensitive feelings. So like it’s easier to be alerted and activated. But there are ways to check.

Liz: Yeah. And I think that whether it’s articles on the internet or things happening in your own community, if you’re noticing that you’re having a really strong emotional reaction, what I’d like to say is strike when the iron is cold. If you’re super activated, that’s not the time to make the post. That’s not the time to send the email to your ex. That’s not the time to make the phone call.

That’s the time for you to figure out where your emotions are coming from. Take a step back and do some investigation because it is so easy when you’re activated to pass around things or say things or do things that you later end up regretting.

Cathy: Or just not even knowing about but it’s inside in someone else.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: So if it’s at the community level, we encourage you to reach out to people that are actually in the know if you’re in a space to do that. Message them or Facebook them or call them.

I’ve made this mistake before too. I just assumed a friend who was going through a rough time would like some space. And I didn’t reach out and they actually felt hurt. And I didn’t really share the information but I was not – a bystander while misinformation was getting passed around. And that’s not who I want to be in this community.

Liz: Right. And there’s never any harming getting more information, right? If getting more information reinforces your original viewpoint then great. Your original viewpoint now has more backup behind it. There is never harm to getting more information.

If what you find as you investigate is that it’s very complex and nuance, now you understand better how complex and nuance it is.

Cathy: Humans happens to be pretty complex and nuance.

Liz: Yeah. And so it almost always behooves you to get more information. There are very few things that are as time-sensitive as we feel they are.

Cathy: Right. And we’re not going to call up a senator to check on news. But we can look at where it’s coming from. A lot of smaller networks don’t have the editorial staff to actually fact check things. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at what they’re promoting and we can check snips or other things to see whether it’s factual or not.

But if it’s a bigger news outlet, you verify, where did it come from, do they actually have real coats in there or are they just saying things and is it seem believable or not. Like do – if we can and we’d always have bandwidth but I’m trying to not share immediately. I’m trying to take the time to at least 5 minutes looking for – Goggling it and seeing if it’s actual before I send it out to the community and I add – I don’t want to add noise to a community that is now needing to focus more than ever.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: And to support each other and be there for each other.

Liz: Absolutely. Again, take the time. It’s never a ton of time that you’re not going to spend an hour researching this article. If you do a quick search on some of the key things in the article and you find that every other article you find references back to the exact same source, that’s generally a problem. That’s generally a sign that they’re quoting from the same blog post or the same Twitter.

Cathy: And that can happen because news is moving so fast. A lot of places don’t take the time to research it and they’ll just refer the same. And there’s actually a whole book on how to generate news using that if you can get an article that’s grabbed by a bigger news and all of a sudden the big places already got to.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: So, our energy right now, our focused is so needed to be in a direction that’s going to actually do us good. It would not do us good if we’re going on false information or rumors or fighting amongst ourselves. So if we can, we really encourage you to take the extra couple of minutes to fact track or don’t hit share until you get a few minutes to do that.

Liz: Yeah. And again, strike when the iron is cold.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: If you’re still super upset, it’s time to take a break from that. And I’m guilty of this too. We’re all guilty of this. Our brains aren’t designed for the modern world we live in, right?

Cathy: Or the situation where crazy stuff is happening.

Liz: Right. And the internet can make it so easy to share things with less of a feeling of accountability than you would have if you’re sharing that information face to face. Like if I walk up to Cathy and tell her, “This is what I read on the internet.” I have a very different accountability to Cathy than I do if I just hit share and then Cathy happens to see it, right?

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: And so, the degree of disconnection and anonymity provided by the internet can make it much easier to be more impulsive in way that we wouldn’t be in person.

Cathy: Yeah. So thank you very much for listening. There is no criticism applied here.

Liz: No.

Cathy: Just a call to the community. Let’s see if we can make sure our energy is directed to where we can do a lot of good in spite of the fact that some of the headlines that are true being actually truth.

Liz: That’s ridiculous.

Cathy: It seems so BS.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: Yeah. So …

Liz: And if you have comments for us, leave them below.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: We would love to hear your thoughts unless if you have questions for us, let us know.

Cathy: Yeah.

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