The Internet harbors an endless supply of false information, and students have to sharpen their critical-thinking skills in order to avoid getting duped.
Hoaxes are around every corner on the Internet. Many people have been tricked into believing an untrue story as true. Jimmy Kimmel tricked the nation with his viral twerk fail video last year. The Associated Press’ Twitter account was hacked last year with a tweet that said, “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” There is no shortage of hoaxes and no shortage of people ready to fall for the lies.
Students can’t avoid coming in contact with hoaxes, but they can become more educated about how to decipher fake information from real information.
Adjunct communication instructor Brittny Goodsell said more voices on the Internet result in more chaos.
“More people have access to put something out there — true or false,” Goodsell said. “So that means that there are almost more gatekeepers of information, and you don’t have to be credible to be a gatekeeper now.”
Goodsell advised students to take a look into the person producing the story.
“When you question someone’s authority, you look at their background,” Goodsell said. “You look at their credibility; you look at their education. I had a professor say anyone with a Ph.D after their name is an expert in their field, and that is considered credible.”
Mikey Stumph, a sophomore integrated studies major from Delta, has a method for determining whether information is trustworthy.
“If more than one credible news outlet is reporting on the subject and they’re all the same story, it’s probably credible,” Stumph said.
Stumph said people tend to believe information they want to be true or information that aligns with a person’s own beliefs.
“I think someone said Brett Favre was going to come back in the NFL this year,” Stumph said. “I was like, ‘Freak yeah,’ because I’m a huge Brett Favre fan. So I almost fell for that one.”
Brandon Anderson, a freshman CIT major from Sierra Vista, Ariz., also fell for a hoax that he wished was true.
“I (fell for a hoax) that was about another Harry Potter book, and I was just really excited so I wanted it to be true,” Anderson said.
Goodsell said students may be less critical of online information because of the lack of education surrounding media literacy.
“If in fact college students are critically thinking, it’s kind of barely starting,” Goodsell said. “And I say that because I don’t know of any high school curriculum program or even college curriculum program that actually has a news literacy or media literacy class.”
Anderson said people need to slow down and not be so quick to jump into believing an exciting story.
“Pay attention, think rationally and check your sources before you open your mouth about things,” Anderson said.