Here at RespectMe, we are all about critical thinking! Why? And what is critical thinking?
Weeelll, since you asked 😊 ….
Critical thinking means actively and skillfully evaluating information to form a belief or make a conclusion. Notice the words actively and skillfully – this means that to think critically we need to be aware and active, not oblivious and passive. But why do we need to be aware, and why is it important to think critically?
Well these days, not only in social media platforms, but also in traditional and online news, it is really easy for misleading information to be spread, and a lot of this information is intended to sell you on an idea or a product. It also can work very subtly to push stereotypical attitudes or reinforce ideas about how people should act, what they should buy, or what is important depending on whether they are male or female. Because a lot of this information is some kind of advertising, it will usually centre around the idea that being successful, sexy, and attractive means having lots of the right kind of ‘stuff’ and looking a certain way.
OK, so if we are ready to start being more active and aware, how do we analyse this information skillfully? Well here are a few tips to start you off on spotting fake, stereotypical or misleading information.
So … guys don’t like shoes? So who pays $400 for Air Jordans?
An ad for baby formula, believe it or not! Are we supposed to believe that a little baby already has dreams of being a ballerina?
First, stop and think, what is this cartoon, meme, article or share trying to say?
One of the main reasons that advertisers, video developers, or fake news writers get away with it, is that it is that it seems familiar, normal or believable. Much fake news and over-the-top imagery is also written to create “shock value,” that is, a strong instinctive reaction such as fear, anger or outrage.
Does the headline or image give you a irresistible temptation to click? Beware! Before you click or share, ask yourself, “Why has this story been written? Is it reinforcing attitudes that tell a group of people what they should or shouldn’t do? Is it selling me a particular product? Or is it trying to get me to click through to another website? Am I being triggered?”
Check the Source
If you come across a story from a source that you’ve never heard of before, do some digging! Check the web address for the page you’re reading. Spelling errors, strange-sounding extensions like “.infonet” and “.offer”, may mean that the source is not legitimate. Sometimes ads are made to look like news stories, or outcomes of real studies, but are really just trying to sell something. Try going to a reliable source and searching yourself, to see if the story has real cred.
Don’t Take Images at Face Value
Editing software has made it easy for people to create fake images that look real or make real images look different. In fact, research shows that only half of us can tell when images are fake. Look for the warning signs – strange shadows, jagged edges around a figure, or Barbie-doll smoothness.
Sometimes a pic can be 100% accurate but used in the wrong context. For example, photos of litter covering a beach could be from a different beach or from 10 years ago, or a pic of two celebrities going out together could be from a public event.
You can use tools like Google Reverse Image Search to check where an image originated and whether it has been altered. An easy way is to just right click and use “search Google for image”
Trust your gut!
Finally, use your common sense! Fake news is designed to “feed” your biases, hopes or fears, so if you get a strong rush of positive or negative feelings, it’s a good idea to stop and think before you share the image or story. Remember if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and if it sounds unbelievably juicy its probably not completely accurate. Is it really likely that your favourite brand is giving away a million tee shirts if you register your email address? Sadly, probably not.
Like anything we do, thinking critically can take some practice and might seem a bit challenging at first. But it is worth it. Building your critical thinking brain muscles let’s you think for yourself. You will also help stop the spread of fake and biased content by calling out the rubbish!