Lately we hear a lot about fake news and alternative facts. Leading news organizations bypass reporting the news and publish opinion pieces about what is truth and what is a lie. It can all get quite fuzzy.
I want reliable facts. The only thing I dislike more than phony news is when I accidentally pass along something false. It’s usually because I failed to verify the source. For instance, a chain email was sent to me recently about how much the president and other elected officials make. It was fraught with errors. I almost believed it, except I knew one of the figures was wrong. Turns out, much of it was incorrect.
Most of us are bombarded with information. From print, radio, TV and social media, we are inundated with more than ever before. According to a report from the University of California, San Diego, “How Much Information?” the average American consumed 3.6 zettabytes in 2008. They wrote, “One zettabyte is 1,000,000,000 trillion bytes, and total bytes consumed last year were the equivalent of the information in thick paperback novels stacked seven feet high over the entire United States, including Alaska.”
This data is already old. Can you imagine what it is for 2017? No wonder I don’t finish as many novels as I used to – there is no room in my head for one more byte. I’m probably consuming a gigazettabytes, which is something I made up. (Note: This is not a fact. It’s not an alternative fact. It’s disinformation; something we used to call a lie. )
Back to my point. (Yes, I have a point.) There is a lot of bad information out there. My Hep blog, “Hepatitis C in the News,” gives an example of this. And because of this, here’s what I need to remember: Everyone, including me, is clamoring for your attention. Writers will write alluring titles and headlines, such as, “Important Information That Everyone Needs.” We will include meaningless images with our work, such as the one I used in this blog today. Journalists will take short cuts in order to make a deadline or a story fit the space limit. We are competing for your time, so we make short statements to grab your attention (something I am too long-winded to even attempt). And the facts can get lost.
Your health, my health, cannot fit into a byte of information. I need trustworthy experts to give me sound advice. If I hear something on the news, I check out the sources. If I am short on time, I ask the experts in my life.
And, I try never to repeat something that I haven’t verified.