3 tips from history that can help you discern your newsfeed

Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. ~Gertrude Stein

Did you know that historians and archaeologists do not believe Pharaoh’s slaves built the Egyptian pyramids? If not, then who did? Archaeologists found a city where the stone workers and artisans of the day lived. In our day and age, these workers would likely have been paid the equivalent of executives.

What led our imaginations to embedded this fiction over fact regarding the pyramids was a famous 1950’s Hollywood movie. As you can see, fake news is not a modern problem.

Note: Now, modern slavery is a problem in 2020, and this issue should be taken seriously by all of us. It is estimated 40.3 million people are living in modern slavery, with 24.9 million in forced labor. Even though it is illegal in all countries, and part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG 8).

Blurred lines

Our minds filtering fact from fiction is becoming more complicated than the latest blockbuster movie. Social media, search engines, our online history, the merging of real people with fictional characters are all blurring the lines of your reality.

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An example of this blurring is 007 Agent James Bond (fictional character) and Her Royal Highness The Queen of the United Kingdom in the London 2012 Olympics opening.


Did you stop to register the cunning play with your imagination?

Filter bubbles

Our online world is ever-evolving around algorithms and filter bubbles, which until recently seemed to do no harm. That is until the explosion of mobile-first applications and the penetration of fake news into our daily lives.

Dictionary — filter bubble — noun

1. a situation in which an Internet user encounters only information and opinions that conform to and reinforce their own beliefs, caused by algorithms that personalize an individual’s online experience.

2. “the personalization of the web could gradually isolate individual users into their own filter bubbles.”

Due to the lockdown in many countries, we are spending more time online. And, it is worth remembering (even if it is boring or annoying) to critically evaluate the information we are digesting. This critical pause in our online viewing to think about what we are consuming is not only for our mental well-being but also for security and the clickbait or emails that may be scams.

Three tips form historical evaluations for accessing your news

1. What is the source?

Even journalists can get tricked by fake news, and once credible sources can leak out misinformation.

So, who can you trust? Look at the types of sources and reference them back to the origin, if possible.

Types of sources

  • Academic Journal — University academic
  • Book — Author
  • Cartoon — Cartoonist
  • Newspaper — Journalist
  • Photo — Photographer
  • Websites: Businesses, governments, the general public, etc, etc
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

2. Motive

An academic journal is to provide an educational insight into a particular topic.

These research papers are ordinarily peer-reviewed, which allow other academics to examine the information before publishing to the public domain.

A speech, on the other hand, is to persuade the audience to agree with the speaker.

A photograph used to be a primary source* of evidence, as it records the details of an event, person, or location. We now know that pictures and videos can be alerted using a pinch of imagination and innovative technology.

(Primary sources* provide a first-hand account of an event. Secondary sources involve analysis, interpretation, or evaluation of primary sources.)

With all this in mind, you need more than one factor to access the credibility of stories you read online — context.

3. Context

When reading posts online, do you know when it was created? A date stamp can be altered. And this is one reason why blockchain technology can be used in the fight against fake news. As once on a blockchain, you cannot change the date stamp.

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Another input into context — was there a significant event happening at the time?

You often hear people say, “history repeats itself,” which means that when a significant event occurs in our time, you can look back into the past to see how others have dealt with similar things.

Why are these components essential to check what you are reading? Well, our filter bubbles can cause us to take action that we would not usually, which could be harmful.

In summary

Before you enter into your online bubble or contribute to it, think about the bigger picture.

I like Roger McNamee, author of Zucked thoughts on before he engages in posting on social media. He says to himself;

“What could go wrong?”

And if he thinks anything at all, he stops should we all take a moment to pause before engaging in content that may or may not be real or genuine.

Stay safe, be well, folks!

If you liked this, please check out my other insights here or follow me on Twitter!

Emily @BlockhchainScout


3 tips from history that can help you discern your newsfeed was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.