10 Tips for Filtering Out Fake News

Over the next couple days this story will break in almost every major news outlet.

It’s from MIT:

Twitter Fake News

Three MIT researchers just finished the biggest “Fake News” study to date.

Their findings: humans, not bots, are primarily responsible for the spread of fake news.

Yesterday, The Atlantic wrote this:

The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.

Pundits everywhere will be talking about this story. But what you won’t hear much about is what I’m going to share with you today.

A few days ago, an article in Quartz caught my eye. The title was “How to read less news but be more informed, according to a futurist.”

First of all, what does a futurist exactly do, I wondered? According to Wikipedia, a futurist is a scientist who specializes in the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present.

The article starts, “You might think someone who gets paid to predict the future would be mad for gadgets and forever spouting off on social media. But you’d be wrong.” Then goes on to introduce writer, teacher, and futurist Richard Watson.

Although Watson teaches Silicon Valley tech companies how to think about crafting tools for tomorrow, he’s not one to perpetuate fake news – heck, he’s not even on Twitter.

Watson gets his news elsewhere and shared with us his 10 best strategies for filtering out fake news. Here they are:

Fake News Filter #1
“Practice selective ignorance”

Watson says, “You can’t read or think about everything, so keep that in mind when choosing materials and pick quality over quantity, and try to create a wide context.

The more information is available, the less we tend to digest, and people are increasingly tuning out even while they consume, so it makes sense to consume less and better data.”

Fake News Filter #2
“Burst the bubble”

Have you ever noticed that when you haven’t read a book in a long time that when you finally do, the information seems more informative for some reason?

Watson advises that we randomly pick up books and magazines, and strike up conversations with strangers.

He says these random acts of interest in strangers and “unusual communications” break your information consumption routines and expose you to unique insights.

Fake News Filter #3
Find the “tall poppies”

Some consequences of hanging around curious and remarkable people is that your curiosity is peaked and suddenly you’re absorbing a bunch of interesting new information you might not have sought out yourself.

Watson advises you cultivate a network of friends like this who are hungry for interesting information and can guide your thinking.

These people are called “tall poppies” in some companies, and Watson believes hanging around these human blooms drives success.

Fake News Filter #4
Hit the road

Watson says “Travel. But again take the path untrodden. We are herd animals and the temptation is always to follow the herd. Try not to.” And the expression, “Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times,” also applies. Look back at yesterday’s email for tips on how to travel for a year for free.

Fake News Filter #5
Find sources you trust

“Follow reliable, thoughtful, forward-looking publications and journalists online and let them do the heavy lifting, finding the most interesting info for you,” says Watson.

“If the publication or person is focused on thoughtful analysis and not panic news, you’ll hear worthwhile insights,” he suggests.

Weekend editions of quality newspapers and daily newsletters like this are good places to start.

Fake News Filter #6
Chill out

Watson has a habit of reading only the Sunday papers, in print, and retrospectively.

Instead of trying to catch up on the news, he’s looking to see which of the many headlines turned out to be relevant a few weeks or a month later.

Watson says “Relax. The important news will find you. It will.” Watson thinks relevant information makes its way to us, and that much of what we worry about daily is just stuff that will soon be forgotten.

Fake News Filter #7
Carve out designated reading time

“Have a think week every year,” Watson says. “Microsoft founder Bill Gates takes time to reflect on the future of technology from deep in a forest, for example. He reads dozens of academic papers during a solitary and studious retreat in the woods, which helps to fuel innovative thinking all year long.”

Fake News Filter #8
Embrace silence

You learn more when you listen than speak. Watson says, “Stop talking. Start listening. Be curious all the time.” Seek out places where reflection and contemplation come easy. Mountains, deserts, forests, churches…

Fake News Filter #9
“Get off social media”

Information that is truly valuable isn’t likely being shared by the masses online. Common knowledge is common for a reason. “But surprising info collected by curious oddballs is precious, valuable, and worth hunting down,” says Watson. “Become cynical about trends. Watch for counter-trends. Visit the fringe.”

Fake News Filter #10
Go dark

Lastly, Watson recommends turning off all communication at least once a week and every evening. Unplugging has many benefits, but simply giving your brain a rest while eliminating the chance of having it be hijacked by fake news stories will keep you better informed in the long run.

You might think all this sounds a bit nuts. My favorite piece of advice Watson shares is his summary of this unconventional approach: “Be contrarian. Get smart by not worrying about where the crowd is going.” I hope these tips give you the tools you need to fight misinformation.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive,
Editor The Rich Life Roadmap

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