A story on National Public Radio by Cory Turner describes how students are being trained to spot fake news. They look at viral stories and ads, and they have to decide if they’re real or fake. What is interesting, and confirms what public relations professionals are often saying, is that social media plays a huge role in how young people get their news. Many of the students in the story never watch news on TV or read a newspaper, so they have to be careful about believing stories that are shared on Facebook and on their phones.
I’ve even used the concept of checking out a source just to see what kind of person someone is, especially if they’re trying to sell me something. For instance, my wife and I were approached by a friend of hers to purchase some insurance. I was curious about the person’s professional image, so I looked at their Facebook profile. I was surprised what I saw there, and I wasn’t really impressed. I usually assume that if someone is in business or wants to develop a successful career, they would be more careful about what they post and who they’re friends with online. Instead, the salesperson we encountered did not seem very professional, and I wondered if it impacted other potential clients, too.
Basically, checking out a source is not just about being a responsible journalist or about discerning what real news is. It’s about checking out what kinds of people you want to do business with or associate with professionally. This concept is also true about how we present ourselves to others. People think business professionals only see what they look like on LinkedIn. However, even a personal Facebook page affects your professional reputation. Therefore, not only should you consider your sources when looking at other people, but consider your own sources for when others check you out.
The bottom line is that we need to put aside our personal preferences and seek the truth.