tips for finding reliable sources

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Being constantly informed can be exhausting. We saw it with the pandemic and it is also happening now with the war in Ukraine. Those of us who spend a lot of time on social networks are exposed to constant information overload. That if they have attacked an airport, that if Chernobyl, that if the tanks, that if Putin has said something… in difficult times, any phenomenon becomes news that can shrink our hearts.


World Health Organization defined it as an infodemic. When a torrent of information through digital media can end up having negative effects on our own health. Many times the focus has been on misinformation, but it is not just about discerning whether what we read is correct or not.

Sometimes, simply the excess of news can cause us to have a distorted view of what is happening. We can believe that we are informing ourselves, but when faced with so much news, our brain is not always capable of processing it in a structured way and we end up being “swept away” by that storm of events. Here we want to talk about how to manage information overload.

Context

Anyone with a mobile or computer can create a thread on Twitter, open a YouTube channel where they show their opinion or post a viral story on Instagram or TikTok. This ease when it comes to generating content is what also makes it easier for us to inform ourselves from thousands of different channels. And in important cases like war, the vast majority of conversations are about the same thing.

To be informed, in this case about Ukraine but it also applies to any topic, we can follow a specific journalist on his Twitch or YouTube channel; we can bet on the retransmissions of a television of our liking; we can consult the reflections of selected experts on Twitter or we can even review some of the hottest topics in digital media such as Xataka. All options are, a priori, valid, effective and reliable.

The first criterion that we recommend applying is to understand the context of what we are reading. Ideally, the medium itself would offer it, but that is not always possible to obtain.. Or at least not to the level one might wish for.

Due to the gravity of a war, all the news or images seem important. But we must look for the context of what we are seeing in order to relativize its impact within the conflict.

When we are informing ourselves, the context is the first thing we have to look for. Not everything is black or white. Not everything deserves the category of ‘last minute’ either. In the case of a war like the one in Ukraine, not all images of tanks mean that a large-scale attack is taking place; warning sirens do not mean that the bombardment is constant over time; the highest level of radiation does not imply that there is a problem in the sarcophagus and the long lines of cars leaving the country should not make us forget that the vast majority of inhabitants are still there.

When faced with so many shocking images or news, it is necessary to know how to relativize its importance within the conflict itself. That will help us, on the one hand, to have a more global image of what is happening and, on the other hand, to reduce the anguish caused by hearing that news or seeing a certain image.

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As a general rule, the ideal thing if a piece of news has impacted us is that we look at how the different sources tell it. On many occasions the image or data will be the same everywhere, but it is also common for each journalist or expert to provide us with a new approach, which allows us to have a better context. This is where our ability to discern if what they are telling us allows us to better digest the situation or is generating more noise for us. In case of the second, it is better to stop and find out in another way.

Veracity

If we talk about war, we talk about various sides with their own interests. At the time of informing I think that we should not seek neutrality, but truthfulness. We are all conditioned by where we come from and biased by the type of information to which we have access. Western analysts will approach the news from the side of the implications for the European Union and the United States; the news that arrives from Ukraine itself will predictably want to draw attention to the seriousness of the matter and the media associated with the Russian government will try to justify their movements.

Propaganda in times of war is very common and it is interesting to keep in mind which media are associated with each side. From Miburoan American cybersecurity consultancy, offer us the following graphic with media associated with the Russian government.

russian propaganda

Media associated with the Russian government. Image: Miburo.

Regardless of the bias, you have to know how to value the spirit with which the information is shared. If it is with the intention of attracting attention, trying to go viral, pausing, talking about curiosity or positioning yourself as an expert in the conflict. All media have their own interests, it is up to the reader to anticipate which foot each one is limping on.

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A very common advice is to go to official sources. It is logical to get information through third parties, since it is much easier to follow a digital medium or a large television network than not to read the official teletypes of the ministry. But within the news, if we have the possibility, it is ideal to consult the original source. Not because what the media is saying is false, but because in the process of informing, not all the details or the original message is not accurately conveyed. Sometimes a word or phrase that followed can be very important in understanding what the person really meant. If we see that the same thing is repeated many times and something fails us, going to the original source can help us understand what has happened.

All informants have their own biases. When it comes to conflict, many end up as propaganda. Understanding which foot each one limps on will help us to be more critical of what they tell us and better understand why they give us that perspective.

When it comes to being truthful, the means often count more than the intention. Hence in a war, those who offer the best information are usually the correspondents. Basically because they are in the field, they are specialized and their life revolves around the conflict, so they themselves strive to be as informed as possible. These journalists also have their own biases, but they are often the first to realize the importance of correctly conveying the consequences.

Moderation

If we wanted, we could spend 24 hours looking at devastating images. Unfortunately, situations like a war cause a Huge amount of material that can be published on networks that can go viral. Whether it’s a mix of trying to sympathize with the flashy and the need to inform the rest, it’s easy for those news or images to be quickly retweeted and shared. To such an extent that many receive a visibility that does not correspond to their relevance.

I need an internet that doesn't make me feel like I'm missing something important if I don't look at it for five minutes.

In social networks, there are many users who take advantage of any situation to jump on the bandwagon. And we don’t mean it maliciously. The tank expert will take advantage of the presence of one of them in Kiev to explain to us what model it is; the energy expert will tell us about the implications of gas while the expert on the European institutions will tell us about the sanctions. Knowledge does not take place, of course. But it is up to the user to determine how much information about the war we want to receive.

We must be aware of the adrenaline that everything viral produces in us and set the limit of how much information we want to receive.

There are thousands of interesting perspectives, angles and messages, but we must know how to differentiate the information we receive because we are interested in that aspect from the one we receive for the pure adrenaline that generates us reading about it. We must be aware that in social networks, all the professionals who are dedicated to them know perfectly well how to focus information to generate this effect. The influencer who makes a joke, the media outlet that puts a headline in a certain way or the expert who starts a thread with a shocking fact. There are many ways to grab attention. And in a war, that can be a very powerful weapon.

Image | Max Kukurudziak

Being constantly informed can be exhausting. We saw it with the pandemic and it is also happening now with the…

Being constantly informed can be exhausting. We saw it with the pandemic and it is also happening now with the…

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