We’ve all been exposed to misinformation, quacks, and all-out bullshit. But not like this. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to unearth the real from the unreal. In today’s society, we’re at peak misinformation and it is taking its toll on our health and wellness.
Part of the problem is we have normalized misinformation. The more we have normalized and welcomed misinformation the more our culture has become chaotic, confusing, and explosive. We’re undoubtedly living in an infodemic, a time where harmful misinformation is spreading like an infectious disease. This infodemic has fostered an erosion of confidence in scientific institutions, organizations, and experts, which has opened the door to voices with little to no experience or expertise.
Fortunately, there is a way forward. But first we must understand how we got to where we are.
There’s no single reason that half-truths, deliberate untruths, or misunderstandings are promoting the acceptance and spread of misinformation. It’s a complex maze of many factors. However, if I were forced to single out the one that has dealt the most damage, the answer would be simple–social media.
According to a 2020 study, people who get their news from social media are more likely to believe and spread misinformation. We know that misinformation spreads fast and far. This is due to the power, influence, and access of social media. Couple this with the fact that the social media ecosystem is a frantic space that does not invite careful consideration of information and its sources and you have the perfect conditions for the spread and growth of misinformation.
Additional key issues are lies, fake news, and pseudoscience. As the old saying goes, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” This is evidently the case as misinformation and conspiracy theories envelope us into their narratives.
With that said, we move onto ideology. Ideology is an important factor because the spread of misinformation has always had an element of ideological spin. Crafting a misleading message that suits a particular worldview is a surefire way to make misinformation more appealing. Moreover, utilizing ideology as the hook allows those who are pushing misinformation to sidestep actual science. The message becomes more about the ideological position rather than the scientific evidence.
So, how do we cut through the noise of misinformation. On the surface, the answer is clear–critical thinking, accountability, and awareness.
Critical thinking is your ally. When you’re surrounded by misinformation, critical thinking, conscious evaluation, and rational analysis are your paths to victory. You are a reasonable person capable of thinking for yourself and cultivating your own ideas and opinions, but the voices pushing misinformation don’t want you to know that.
You’re also responsible, which means it’s your and my duty to hold each other and those spreading information accountable. We’ve accepted misinformation as normal for far too long. It is time we put reliable information back on the throne. This may mean we have to get dirty in the trenches and fight fire with fire. Scientific evidence-based information is one of the best weapons we have at our fingertips to combat the spread of misinformation.
The final way forward is through awareness. If you become aware of the tactics behind misinformation, and then strive to help others become aware, misinformation will no longer have a strong foothold in our communities. Ignorance is misinformation’s right-hand man.
Ultimately, if we want to live healthier lives and build a healthier world for future generations, we must be intentional about uprooting misinformation and planting in its place evidence-based information.
October 18, 2021